We recently discovered that the poultry processing plant in Fort Collins recently closed its doors. For folks who raised their own birds, but didn't have the time or the stomach to process them on their own, could take them to Rocky Mountain and bring home birds ready to eat.
Now, with the being gone, and the almost year ago closure of another facility in Wellington - leaves no facilities in Colorado for small poultry producers.
Because of this, our phone has been ringing. Which is fine. We bought our own processing equipment for our own birds. We use it 4 - 5 times a year. The rest of the time, it hangs around the farm, looking pretty (well, maybe not pretty)
We got a call this past weekend from a gentleman that raises ducks for a high end restaurant. He needed help. He brought them to us and we helped him process over 100 ducks over a weekend. Ducks are difficult - because they are waterfowl, they don't pluck as easily. Commercial operations use hot wax (that sounds gross, and messy) We didn't have that capability, but with a crew of help - we got them all done. Still, I don't want to raise ducks for meat!!
We've started getting other phone calls - can you help us process our birds, can you process them for us, etc. Yes, the answer is yes. We have also decided that we may rent our equipment to those experienced in processing. It's not cheap equipment (which is why backyard growers don't have the set up) and we need to protect that investment. But we've always been happy to teach people how to process their own birds. If we teach you how, and let you practice on some of our birds - we'll let you rent the equipment. If you bring your birds to us, we'll process them for a fee. If you help process, that fee will be less. If you drop them off and pick them up when we are done - the fee will be a little more.
This was a business decision for us, but an easy one. We have the skills, we have the equipment, we'll make the time. It's a community decision. We know why people raise their own birds, and we encourage that. It's the same reasons why We raise our own birds! We want to build that community of people who grow their own food. We want to support and encourage that community.
We are too small to be USDA inspected, but we are looking at getting CDA approval (that's Colorado Department of Agriculture). The law states that if you fall under the USDA minimum, that you don't need USDA inspection, but you do need CDA approval. So we are looking into that. We are also going to get a sales tax license, since this service requires us to collect sales tax. We want to stay on the up and up, and do things right. We think this will be a viable add-on to our farm business, and we don't want to get shut down for not following the right laws. We'll keep everyone posted.
I see a lot of knife sharpening in my future - but I love seeing people raise their own food and be able to eat high quality, fresh food raised in a happy, healthy and caring environment.