by Nate Rafn
Until recently, Scio Poultry Processing was one of only two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected poultry plants in Oregon that served other growers. The other is Dayton Meats, which primarily processes red meat. Most of the poultry processed at Dayton Meats is used for products manufactured by Pacific Foods, the parent company.
While Scio Poultry Processing is giving up their USDA Grant of Inspection, they are still able to process for other growers under the USDA Small Enterprise Exemption. This exemption requires facilities to process fewer than 20,000 birds per year.
To take advantage of the exemption, Scio Poultry Processing purchases live chickens from growers, processes them, then sells them back to the growers for distribution. The chickens can then be sold to any consumer, grocer, or restaurant in Oregon. Interstate sales are illegal.
According to Karen Schueller, who owns Scio Poultry Processing with her husband Joe, the exemption will not effect the high sanitary standards that they've already implemented.
"We continue to use our controlled atmosphere stunning box which is a more humane way of processing," says Schueller. "We have contacted the Animal Welfare Approved organization to see about getting the plant approved by them so folks can feel better about how their birds were processed. We also still spray each bird with the organic anti-microbial agent that we started using last summer. We feel this too is an added benefit for consumer piece of mind to know their birds have been processed using sanitary methods and the added benefit of the anti-microbial spray to reduce pathogen contamination."
Under the new plan, growers are able to get their birds processed at a slightly reduced cost. Thus far, Karen Schueller's customers have found the transition to be fairly easy.
"Our label states the exemption on it, so there shouldn't be any questions asked when growers try to sell the birds," says Schueller. "Of course, it still depends on their customer to accept the birds or not, but everyone so far has not had any issues with selling their birds."
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