The Whatcom Community Foundation has committed to provide a “matching fund” loan of up to $65,000 to support the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative (NCMPC). The funding comes at an integral time for the cooperative, which is currently seeking to raise membership equity and open a USDA-inspected meat processing business to serve the North Puget Sound region.
“The Community Foundation is thrilled to make capital available to the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative,” said Foundation CEO Mauri Ingram. “It’s another way we can invest in a market based solution to strengthen the local and regional food economy as well as recycle our capital for other future ventures.”
The cooperative, which just approved the application of its twentieth member, has received $37,500 in member equity investment thus far. The cooperative’s 20 current members come from Island, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties with total current livestock counts of 760 beef, 220 lamb, and 280 hogs.
Pat Grover, President of the NCMPC, expressed his gratitude to the Foundation.
“This type of community-based investment can send a powerful message to meat producers, the market, and the community-at-large. It takes a lot of commitment and support from diverse stakeholders to get a cooperatively owned business started. We have had a strong level of interest from supermarkets, restaurants, and institutions who are interested in accessing local pasture-raised meat. We need another fifteen to twenty members and $27,500 in equity investment to fully maximize this matching fund loan opportunity and move to the next phase of our capital plan.”
The NCMPC plans to offer WSDA Custom Exempt and USDA-Inspected processing services. To make this possible, the cooperative will lease and use a USDA-inspected mobile slaughter unit through the Pierce County Conservation District. The self-contained unit will be stationed at farm sites in Whatcom County and possibly Skagit County for at six days per month, to start, with the possibility to scale up. The unit can accommodate the harvest of up to 12 beef, 20 pork, or 30 lambs per day. The finished carcasses will then be transported in a refrigerated truck to a processing plant at a yet-to-be-determined location in Skagit County or Whatcom County.
An exciting element of this plan is the development of the North Cascade Meats, A Farmers Cooperative brand. The cooperative’s board of directors has developed and agreed upon common production standards for beef, pork, and lamb that ensure animals are pasture or grass finished (no grains), no feed antibiotics or hormones are used, no petroleum-based fertilizers are used on pastures, and no detrimental impacts to riparian areas are permitted. The cooperative will purchase livestock from participating members at favorable prices, and process, market and distribute under this branded label.
Members of the cooperative presented this program, marketing materials, and pricing with Whatcom County’s Community Food Co-op, Western Washington University Food Services-Aramark, Peace Health Food and Nutrition Services, and Fiamma Burger and garnered positive responses. “We’re really excited that local meat producers have formed The North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative to market their products under a common label,” states Jim Ashby, General Manager of Community Food Co-op. “We work with several of the individual producers now that belong to the co-op and know the great quality of their products. Our owners and shoppers will really value knowing that the same high quality standards will be behind all the products from the cooperative.”
Are you interested in joining or purchasing from the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative? Learn more details on their website.