Page 68 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
P. 68

for food
THURSDAYS AND FRIDAYS ARE KILL days,” says Greg Stratton, glancing in the sideview mirror as his pickup truck jostles down a back road near the New York– Massachusetts line. “Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we’re in the cut shop.”
Today is a Thursday.
“We’ve got two beef this morning, and this afternoon we’ve another two beef.”
Stratton, a sturdy man with a crew cut, a matter-of-
fact manner of speech, and a “bad habit of chewing tobacco,” owns and operates Stratton’s Custom Meats, a slaughterhouse, butcher shop, and smokehouse in Hoosick Falls, about 35 minutes northeast of Albany.
Stratton’s is not the only cut shop in the area, but it’s the only one that offers a mobile slaughter service to clients. Using a pickup truck outfitted with a crane, he and his team travel to farms with cows, pigs, and other ruminants within a 100-mile radius, stretching as far south as Dutchess County.
When bringing their products to market, livestock farmers have three options: their animals can be slaughtered in a federally inspected facility, which permits them to be sold in retail cuts and viable for interstate commerce; they can
use a state-inspected facility, which again permits the sale of retail cuts, but strictly for intrastate commerce. (Only 27 states permit state-inspected facilities; New York is not one of them.) Or they can use a custom-slaughter facility for personal consumption of meat. These facilities are exempt from inspection, except for recordkeeping and sanitation requirements.
Federally-inspected facilities far outnumber any other kind of facility, accounting for more than 98 percent of all U.S. beef, pig, and chicken slaughter, and close to 90 percent of all lamb and sheep slaughter. The majority of this work is done by industrial operations, which can slaughter upwards of 2,500 cattle a day.
All of which is to say that custom slaughter is something of a niche business.
And mobile slaughter units, or “MSUs,” like Stratton’s make up an even more niche corner of the customer slaughter market. There are those who contest that without regular oversight, custom slaughter allows greater risk
of inhumane or unsanitary conditions, since there is no USDA official present to monitor the process. For Stratton, however, it allows for exactly the opposite. By eliminating the transportation of animals to a foreign environment,
66 the valley table march – may 2020
   by steve fowler

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