Category: Idea

24 Aug 2023

A Small Producer’s How-to Guide to Animal Processing

A Small Producer's How-To Guide to Animal Processing

As a small scale farmer, you may want to incorporate animals into your operation to positively impact your soil health, and to provide additional revenue streams for your operation. But how do you go from having animals on your pasture to meat in your freezer? There are many points to consider, and with a little planning you can make the most of the benefits your animals can bring to your operation.

What kind of processing do you need?

One of the most important questions is: how are you planning to sell your finished meat? If you are planning to sell it in a retail setting, you will need to select a State or Federal (USDA) inspected processing facility. Federal inspection is required if you are selling the finished product across state lines (common if you are shipping meat to customers). If you are processing animals only for your own consumption, or plan to sell only to customers who will work with the butcher directly, you may instead choose a custom exempt processor.

If you are processing animals for your own consumption only, on-farm slaughter could be an option for you. Consider buying a copy of Adam Danforth’s book Butchering, which provides very thorough step-by-step information. There may also be butchers in your area who will harvest animals on-site for you on a contract basis. Ask around at your local 4-H, extension office, butcher shops, or ask other local farmers to see if anyone nearby is offering this service.

How to find processors in your area:

Be sure you start your search early. While each processor has their own timeline, some slaughter appointments are commonly made a year in advance.

Start with a Google search in your area. Another good resource is the FSIS Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory. You can use their search tools to locate butchers in your state/region that accept the species you are planning to harvest. Be sure to ask other producers in your area who is processing their animals – personal recommendations from other farmers can be the best place to start.

How to choose a processor:

Once you have identified some processing options, it’s time to follow up with each one to make sure you make informed decisions. Some things to consider:

  • Call and talk with someone at the facility. Building a personal relationship with your butcher is important.
  • Understand their fees, minimum requirements, and any other particulars.
  • Make sure they can provide the services you need – organic processing availability, label claims, retail labels with weights, etc. are different at each facility. Most processors will offer vacuum sealing, which will offer the longest shelf life while frozen (at least 1 year). Paper wrapping may also be available at a lower cost, but the product will need to be consumed more quickly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Value-added products, like ham, bacon, and sausages may help boost your total carcass value. You may want to purchase and sample some value-added products from the processor, in order to select what best suits the taste of your customers. Be sure to review ingredient lists to make sure they meet your expectations.
  • Make a facility visit ahead of time, and make sure their facility and dropoff site suits your needs and meets your standards. This is also a good time to meet their staff in person.
  • Consider travel time to their location and its related stress on your animals, and wear and tear on your equipment.
  • The processor may not accept appointments for all species at all times of year. Make sure to confirm that the harvest dates you have in mind align with their schedule.

Deciding what cuts and products to order

Before your drop-off date, the processor will have you fill out a form (known as a cut sheet or cutting instructions) to make sure your animals are cut to your preferences. The most important factor when filling out the cut sheet is: what do you/your customers want to eat? Are there seasonal or regional variables you should keep in mind? Are there less popular cuts you could have fabricated into more valuable items (like having chicken drumsticks made into sausages)? Make sure to work with your butcher when filling out the cut sheet, to make sure your requests are within their capability and to understand if any of your choices will incur additional fees.

What equipment is needed to transport animals to a processor?

It is very important to ensure the safety of yourself and your animals during transport. Transportation can be stressful on animals, so ensuring your equipment is properly selected and in good working order can help mitigate additional stress. Stressed animals can have a greater tendency to be injured during transport, which could lead to bruising or broken bones that can reduce carcass quality or could lead to an animal being condemned at the processor.

Small animals like chickens and rabbits may be transported in crates made for that purpose. Large animals like sheep, hogs and cattle should be transported in a livestock trailer towed by a truck. Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the total weight of your trailer with the animals inside.

Picking up your finished product

Work with your processor to schedule a pickup date and time. Keep in mind that value-added products might take longer to produce than your standard cuts. Ask how many/what size boxes to expect, and plan cargo space in your vehicle accordingly. If you are traveling a long distance, make a plan to keep the meat cold (insulated blankets, coolers, refrigerated truck or van, etc.).

Storage post-harvest

If you are selling directly to a customer in bulk, your customer may pick up the finished product from the butcher directly and you will not need to store the meat yourself. If you are planning to sell the product in bulk at a later date, or as individual retail cuts, you will pick up the meat from the butcher and then maintain it in your own cold storage.

Acquire adequate frozen storage sized to meet your needs, such as chest/upright freezer(s), or a walk-in freezer with shelving. Consider a battery powered temperature alarm to make sure you don’t lose product in the event of an unexpected freezer failure or power outage – these alarms are often equipped with bluetooth alerts, which can be useful if your storage is in a less frequently visited location. Have a backup power plan (such as a generator) in the event of a power outage.

Find a storage organization method that works for you. Keep an inventory list to make sure you know what you have available to sell, and the date the product entered your inventory. In general, it is best to sell vacuum sealed meats within a year of packaging.

If you are selling meat to others, you may be subject to Health Department standards for inspection, safe storage and handling. Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for accurate information in your area. In general, refrigerated meats must be kept below 40ºF and frozen meats must be kept frozen at or below 0ºF at all times. Raw poultry must be cooked or frozen within 9 days of slaughter (slaughter day is day 1). In general, other meats should be frozen with 10-14 days of packaging in order to maintain quality.

Data collection post-harvest

You may find it beneficial to track some data post-harvest, to better inform your management decisions in the future. Data you may consider tracking in a simple spreadsheet may include:

  • Animal weights pre-harvest (if available).
  • Animal hanging weights post-harvest.
  • Weights of the product received back from the butcher from each harvest. You can use this to calculate your total carcass yield. You can also decide what your profit margin needs to be, and work backward to determine your retail pricing per pound/cut/animal.
  • Your sales over time, in total and per cut. You may find it useful to track this information at different intervals for comparison, for instance each month, quarter and year. This data may help inform the way you fill out your cut sheets for future harvests, as you compare your sales vs. your inventory.

There are many considerations to keep in mind when deciding how to harvest animals, which can be overwhelming at first. If you have questions that we haven’t addressed here, please reach out to and we will do our best to help.

04 May 2023

Paid Family Medical Leave

Paid Family Medical Leave at Greenacres

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation where you had to choose between taking care of a loved one or going to work? Or worse, have you had to sacrifice your own health because you couldn’t afford to take time off? What about taking time off for the birth of a baby? Many companies now offer a Parental Leave, but we don’t think that is inclusive enough. What if you’re done having kids, or don’t plan to have any, so that really isn’t a benefit to you? However, maybe your spouse is diagnosed with cancer or your aging parent has a serious illness.

This is called life. While we don’t like to think about these circumstances, it happens to so many of us, and then we are left scrambling to figure out how to balance the stress of time off, work, and pay. Sure, there is FMLA coverage for many of us, but that is not PAID time off. Some states have taken matters into their own hands and have implemented statewide Paid Family Medical Leave but that hasn’t happened in Ohio or Indiana yet.

At Greenacres, we’re committed to sustainability not just in our agriculture practices, but also in the way we treat our employees. We firmly believe that taking care of our employees is just as important as taking care of the land we farm on. We believe in putting our employees first, which is why we recently implemented a Paid Family Medical Leave benefit. This means that if you need to take time off to take care of a sick family member or if you’re dealing with your own medical issue, you can do so without worrying about losing your paycheck.

By implementing this benefit, we are showing our employees that we value their well-being and that we understand life happens. It’s important to note that this benefit doesn’t just benefit employees, but it also benefits Greenacres. By creating this safety net for our employees, we are creating a happier and more productive workforce. And who wouldn’t want that?

Cheers to a happier, healthier, and more GENERATIVE workforce!

14 Apr 2023
Young Tree of Heaven in Indian Hill woodlands

Invasive Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven

Young Tree of Heaven in Indian Hill woodlands
Tree of Heaven: an invasive in North America and the preferred host plant of spotted lanternflies

Invasive Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven:
A Double Threat to Local Ecosystems

Spotted lantern fly is once again making the news since this is the time of the year when their eggs are most visible. This invasive insect species has been spreading across the United States since its first sighting in Pennsylvania in 2014. Unfortunately, it reached Ohio last year, and the extent of this insect’s impact is not fully understood.

The spotted lanternfly is a type of planthopper, which means that it feeds on plant sap using its piercing mouthparts. They can cause significant damage to trees by feeding on their sap, which can weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to disease and other pests, and even killing it in severe cases. One tree to keep an especially close eye on is tree of heaven, a favorite of the lantern fly.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs
Tree of Heaven, marked by pink tags, in Indian Hill woods
Tree of Heaven (marked by pink tags): an invasive species to North America and the preferred host plant of Spotted Lanternfly

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is also an invasive species that has become problematic in many parts of the country, including Ohio. It is highly successful due to its ability to produce clones in addition to over 300,000 seeds per year. These trees are also allelopathic meaning they can secrete chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of surrounding native vegetation. Greenacres is currently in the process of developing in-house methods to control tree of heaven.

What can be done to address this double threat to local ecosystems? 

  • Report any sightings of spotted lanternflies or tree of heaven using the form or QR code found at Ohio Department of Agriculture.
  • Remove or treat any tree of heaven growing on your property. This can be done using methods such as herbicides, cutting and stump treatment, or girdling. However, care should be taken not to disturb or harm other plants in the area.
  • Encourage the growth of native plant species in your garden or landscaping. Native plants are adapted to the local environment and provide food and habitat for a variety of insects, birds, and other wildlife.

    By working together, we can help protect our local ecosystems from the negative impacts of invasive species like the spotted lanternfly and tree of heaven. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Greenacres or other local organizations for advice and support. 

    The spotted lanternfly can congregate in large numbers.
    The lanternfly with its wings open.
    21 Jun 2022
    tall grass with wooden and wire fencing

    Why We Mow Less

    tall green grass with wire fence and trees in background

    Why We Mow Less

    Tall Grass is Good Stewardship

    Around Greenacres, you may notice some of our grasses are not mowed frequently, and can grow quite tall.  While freshly cut lawns can look nice, mowing isn’t beneficial for the environment. Gas-powered mowers put emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. Mowers also cut down native wildflowers, reducing the nectar available to pollinators. Mowers are also heavy machines that compact the soil. By mowing less, we practice good stewardship by supporting our ecosystems and native plants.

    Rather than over-using fuel-powered mowers, we can also let our cattle, sheep, and horses graze and maintain our landscaping naturally. Greenacres livestock manager, Leevi Stump, informs us, “It is an extensive process managing all of the sections of property we graze. The livestock are our ‘mowers’ and their impact is great as their hooves return any decaying material to the Earth where insects and soil microbes can utilize it. Grass’ main purpose is to reproduce, and as it matures and seeds out, it loses its nutritional value. Grazing encourages regrowth and root development and lengthens the time the plant is in a vegetative state, allowing the grasses to capture as much solar energy as possible leading to improved soil and animal health.”.

    tall grass with wooden and wire fencing

    “It is an extensive process managing all of the sections of property we graze. The livestock are our ‘mowers’ and their impact is great as their hooves return any decaying material to the Earth where insects and soil microbes can utilize it. Grass’ main purpose is to reproduce, and as it matures and seeds out, it loses its nutritional value. Grazing encourages regrowth and root development and lengthens the time the plant is in a vegetative state, allowing the grasses to capture as much solar energy as possible leading to improved soil and animal health.”

    Leevi Stump, Livestock Manager

    Our local pollinator and bird populations benefit when we mow less, by preserving their food sources and habitats. These animals and insects are essential components of our ecosystems and in our garden production. Native birds and some native insects use organic materials like grasses to build their homes. So, the less we mow, the better it is for our pollinator and bird communities.

    Mowing can also have a harsh effect on the ground below. Heavy machinery continually compacts the soil, making it difficult for healthy root growth. When we allow the land to rest by mowing less often, roots are able to grow deeper into the soil. With longer and stronger roots, water can penetrate deeper into the root zone, making the plants less susceptible to heat stress and more drought resistant. 

    You can mow less, too!

    Even if you don’t have livestock on your property, you can mow less often and still see environmental benefits! Try setting aside a portion of what you typically mow, and let it grow tall, mowing about once a year. Take note of any new flora or fauna you observe throughout the seasons! You can even sow seeds of native plants to increase the biodiversity of your plot. You’ll spend less time mowing, while also lowering your carbon footprint.

    If you have any questions about our land management practices, please don’t hesitate to contact us.