NYS Livestock Producers Share Meat Processing Challenges

In Spring 2020, with the COVID pandemic in full swing, the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) was hearing reports of livestock producers from around NYS who were either unable to get butcher appointments or whose appointments were being cancelled by the butcher.

Livestock processing was a challenge for producers long before the pandemic. In 2006 at a statewide Summit hosted by the Cornell Small Farms Program, livestock processing emerged as one of the top 3 issues affecting small farm viability. But the pandemic greatly exacerbated these existing challenges.

So in July 2020 CSFP surveyed NYS livestock producers to quantify the barriers farmers were facing and get a sense of their reactions to various possible policy solutions. The survey established farm location, scale and species raised, type of slaughter facility used, slaughter appointment lead time, facility distance from farm, as well as pre-pandemic revenue from meat. It also gauged farmers’ support for various potential policy solutions, including the PRIME Act, implementation of a NYS Inspection Program, and a Food Freedom Act for NY.

Summary of Findings

666 NYS livestock producers completed the survey, representing all regions of the state. The primary finding was that 86% of these farms reported increased consumer demand during the pandemic, and of these, 77% were unable to meet that demand primarily because of inability to get their animals slaughtered.

This short Powerpoint presentation, Livestock Slaughter Challenges in NY, summarizes other main findings, along with some quotes from farmers. It also includes summary findings from interviews of USDA slaughterhouses conducted in 2018 by the Overcoming Ruminant Supply Chain Barriers project.


These slides contain the data collected in the survey.

Erica Frenay

Erica has had several different roles with the Small Farms Program since she began working there in 2005. In 2006 she co-founded the Northeast Beginning Farmer Project, and launched the first online course in 2007. For 10 years she facilitated and organized the Beginning Farmer Learning Network, a professional development network for service providers in the Northeast who support beginning farmers. She has shepherded the development, publishing, and updating of several key SFP publications, like the Guide to Farming in NYS, the On-Farm Poultry Processing Guide, and the Guide to Direct Marketing Livestock and Poultry. As the SFP’s menu of online courses surpassed 20, she shifted her role primarily to managing these courses, providing ongoing training to instructors, and ensuring a high quality experience for students.
Posted in