Burnsville Co-op Valley Natural Foods is Getting into the Meat Processing Game

Valley Natural Meats in Northfield will begin processing meat in November.

Twin Cities carnivores in search of local, humanely raised meats have an abundance of co-ops and butcher shops at their service. 

Soon, they'll have another source of locally raised, grass-fed, and organic meats. Valley Natural Foods, the Burnsville-based food co-op, will open Valley Natural Meats, Inc., a $2 million wholesale meat processing plant in Northfield later this year. 

The facility will feature a 4,400-square-foot Minnesota Department of Agriculture- and organic-certified holding barn. The processing plant will churn out naturally and humanely raised, grass- and organic-grain-fed, locally produced meats. It will be one of a few certified, organic multi-species beef and meat processors in the entire state, says CEO Jason Harstad.

“This will let us control the process from live animals to packaged product," says Harstad, "and to ensure that customers are getting meat that is local, organic, and from animals that are raised and processed humanely.”

The plant will also serve direct-market producers in the South Central and Southwestern areas of the state who suffer a lack of local processing capacity and long transport distances to processing facilities, both of which can affect the health and quality of the animals.

Renovations on the 16-acre property start in mid-August, with plans to start processing a small number cattle and hogs in November. Phase two of the project, slated for 2017, includes the plant becoming USDA certified to allow the sale of products outside of Minnesota and the processing of goats and lambs. The plant will also manufacture speciality and smoked and cured meats, jerky, hams, and sausages for wholesale and retail customers.

Harstad, who currently manages the meat and seafood department at the co-op, will take some of his more seasoned employees with him to Northfield. He and his team will personally visit every farm that sends animals to the plant to ensure that the they have access to food and water 24 hours a day, and are free to move around.

“We are sensitive to the fact that we are taking an animal’s life for food, and want to ensure they are raised humanely,” he says. 

City Pages • Monday, July 11, 2016 by MARY JO RASMUSSEN

http://bit.ly/2a6BwTU

Photo courtesy of Valley Natural Foods

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