I was really excited about this message (below) until I read further into it. “…for the production of a premium brand of creatively designed fruit based preserves.” Farmers can already make their own jelly at home. It’s covered under the cottage food exemption. You’ll find fruit preserves at every farmers’ market in Ohio.
What our farm needs is a cannery that will do meat, broth, soups, and other meat-based products. We’ve made inquiries to ACENet and the ODA–even looked into starting our own facility–and all we heard was “You have to have a big industrial cannery to do meats.” After more than a year of searching, we finally found Keystone Meats in Lima, Ohio. They charge $1.35 per 28 oz. can, and the minimum amount they’ll process is 2000 lbs. of boneless meat.
They don’t slaughter the animals, though. You still need to have that done at an inspected facility somewhere else. Otherwise, the cans will be marked “not for resale.” That means I’d have to take my broilers to King & Sons (presently the only state-inspected custom poultry processor in the state) to have the birds processed first. The trouble with that is that they’re only equipped to do 800 birds a day. Conservatively estimating two pounds of boneless meat per bird, that means you’d need a minimum of 1000 chickens to get enough meat for Keystone to let you in the door. And King’s doesn’t slaughter every day. It’s just one or two days a week, never consecutive days, so I it wouldn’t even be possible to have them do 1000 birds at once. You’d have to drop off 800, store them frozen somewhere, then do another 200 on a different day.
Let’s say this was workable, though. By the time I pay around a thousand dollars for a thousand chicks, and buy feed for them at $11.35 per 50 lb. bag, then pay for fuel to haul them two hours to King’s, pay them to slaughter and de-bone, and pay Keystone $1.35 a can for 2000 pounds worth of 28 oz. cans, I’ve got over $11,000 tied up in cans of meat that I have to sell for something like $9.60 a can just to break even. If I sold it for $11 a can (too low? How much will someone realistically pay for a can of non-organic chicken?), I’d make about $1,500 profit. That’s not accounting for marketing costs, fixed assets, etc. Presently, I can make more than that on 300 birds I sell at the farmers’ markets, and I don’t have to raise them a thousand at a time or take out a loan of $11,000 for operating expenses.
And Keystone won’t do broth. That’s principally what I’m looking for. After my customers make a rush on the chicken breasts and buy about half the leg quarters, I’m left with a bunch of wings, backs, and the other half of the leg quarters. I’d like to cook these down into broth or soup to try to recapture some value, but try collecting 2000 lbs. of those pieces! I have a big pressure canner, but the state won’t let me sell broth or stock canned in it.
If some well-funded entrepreneur were to open a cannery that could do small, custom batches of soups, broths, canned meats, etc., affordably, it would be a fantastic opportunity for small farmers to sell value-added products. We have no shortage of Ohio produced jams and salsas, but there are no small farmers in Ohio doing direct sales of hot dog sauce or chicken noodle soup made from their own meat. And if a cannery is licensed and outfitted to handle meats, they could do other low-acid foods, too. That throws the door wide open to all kinds of canned vegetables. We could fill the grocery stores with locally produced, identity preserved goods, if only someone would package them for us.
Best of luck, though, to Mr. Leard and anyone who gets in on this new fruit cannery co-op.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Renee Hunt
Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 09:18:49 -0400
Subject: [oeffadirect] [Fwd: Fwd: co-op cannery]
Anyone interested in forming a cooperative cannery, read on… This was originally sent and distributed to the OEFFA Athens Chapter. Best, Renee
*From: *”Ray Leard” <firstname.lastname@example.org >
*Date: *May 17, 2009 11:03:01 AM PDT
*To: *<email@example.com >
*Subject: **co-op cannery*
I own Purely American, a specialty food manufacturing concern located in the Poston Station Road Industrial Park – www.purelyamerican.com . I am trying to determine the interest among the region s’ farmers for the creation of a cooperative cannery in which the farmers would contract with my company to provide certain fruits raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples for the production of a premium brand of creatively designed fruit based preserves. I would invest the required funds in building the commercial kitchen, product design, marketing, promotion, and distribution at the national level through my existing channels I have already established. The press attached release explains the basic idea.
Wanted to know if, as a member of the Athens Farmers Market, you (or other fellow farmers that you know) might have an interest in becoming an owner/member in our new cooperative. The main purpose in creating the co-op will be to enable the area farmers to join forces to obtain a fair and consistent price for their premium quality fruit. The fruit will be used in a line of preserves that will help establish the Athens region as one of America’s premier locally grown food artisan regions. This will be achieved by maintaining the level of “Athens Grown” fruit in the line of products at 100% thereby creating a product line similar to great wines in which all the grapes are from a certain winery or region. In the preserve world as a company gets larger and larger they start compromising on quality and begin sourcing their fruit from outside the region where the idea started thereby compromising the integrity of the product.
I would appreciate your serious consideration in this matter. Please feel free to ask any and all questions. Don’t have all the answers yet but will work with each of you to make this something we can all be proud of as we proceed.
See you at the market!
Ray Leard and dedicated foodcrafters
5991 Industrial Park Road
Athens, Ohio 45701
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell St., Columbus, Ohio 43214
Ph: 614-421-2022 Fax: 614-421-2011