Coronavirus spurs interest in small works

Victorian coronavirus abattoir outbreaks see search for alternatives

Coronavirus
SMALL WORKS: Coronavirus is giving a big push to the establishment of small abattoirs, says Tammi Jonas.

SMALL WORKS: Coronavirus is giving a big push to the establishment of small abattoirs, says Tammi Jonas.

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Small producers may benefit from COVID-19 abattoir closures.

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Coronavirus outbreaks in major abattoirs around Victoria have reinvigorated plans for small meatworks, covering up to three or four farms in an area.

Jonai Farms Tammi Jonas, Eganstown, said the micro-abattoirs would be ideal for primary producers, involved in community-supported agriculture, who only had small herds or flocks..

Ms Jonas, husband Stuart, and their family run black pigs and Speckline cattle, selling the meat through a farmgate shop and a membership list. But the livestock is slaughtered, off farm

Ms Jonas said the temporary closure of Diamond Valley Pork, Laverton North, had spurred on her interest in setting up a small abattoir, in the region.

"(It's) something we've been bracing for throughout the pandemic," she said.

"But it's pushed me along. Because I have so much on my plate, I had to go slow with the plan, but now we don't need any more reminders as to how brittle the long supply chain is."

Ms Jonas, who is also president of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, said she was hopeful there would be better support, from governments, to help producers set up micro-abattoirs.

A small plant, which would process several head of livestock a week, could be set up for about $80,000, she said.

"Governments would be supportive of regional infrastructure being built.

"In Victoria, I think there is an appetite to provide some funding."

She said it would take a lot of work to set up a micro-abattoir.

"But it has to happen," she said. "We have to write a business model that works, without any subsidies

"We would do 12 pigs and two cattle a month, and that's enough for a small system to prove it's viability, as long as we have help with our start-up costs."

She said an added benefit of a regional micro-abattoir would be the reduction in time staff, or owners, had to take away from their farms, when they took animals to a larger works.

"Animals can be slaughered where they are raised, and not transported, and that's the best outcome for them," she said.

Mr Jonas said she envisaged one works serving four to five farms, in a 50-100km radius around it.

"You would start to see a really vibrant regional economy - jobs in the bush."

She said she had a start date of 18 months, in mind.

The Victorian licencing of the Provenir mobile abattoir, which will do its first kill in the state this week, was also encouraging.

While Provenir was not a "gamechanger' for small producers, as they wouldn't be turning off the number of animals to make the mobile unit viable, it did "soften the space" for the development of micro-abbatoirs. "I am hoping it opens up a dialogue, not necessarily with (the regulator) PrimeSafe, but the government."

The American experience, where many abattoirs were affected by coronavirus, had seen the small scale meatworks movement "rocketing forwards.

"That has gone from a slow burn movement, that's been going for at least two decades, to completely exploding," she said.

A spokesman for Agriculture Victoria said the decision to set up a micro-abattoir was commercial, rather than regulatory.

"The Victorian Government is facilitating the growth of niche agricultural industries and responding to increasing demands to support flexibility and innovation."

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The story Coronavirus spurs interest in small works first appeared on Stock & Land.

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