Hoping to start a meat-processing plant? Here’s some help

(Photo: Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Entrepreneurs wanting to start a meat-processing business in Ohio may be encouraged by the hearty demand, but there’s a whole lot more to consider.

What type of meat will the business process? Pork, beef, chicken? Want to sell the meat out of state or just in Ohio? What about employees? Will there be enough workers to staff the facility? 

“It’s overwhelming,” said Lyda Garcia, an assistant professor of meat science and Extension meat specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

“The meat industry is a complex system. There are so many hurdles you have to jump over and loops you have to jump through. At any point, any of them can be a problem.” 

Garcia, as part of an effort to serve Ohioans, organized a team from CFAES that created a free online “toolkit” with questionnaires, links, and other resources to help people fully think through starting up a meat-processing facility. 

Using the toolkit, a prospective entrepreneur can discover livestock inventories by county throughout Ohio, business model options, guides to creating a business plan, contacts in the meat industry, and a host of other resources. 

“If they can go through and answer questions from the questionnaires, they’ll have a good idea of what’s involved,” Garcia said. 

As COVID-19 spread through the nation’s largest meat-processing facilities last spring, some temporarily closed or reduced hours because so many employees were out sick. Meanwhile, orders piled up. Some local processing facilities took the orders instead, but then they quickly got backed up too.  

And they are still working on overdrive. Most Ohio meat-processing plants are booked until 2022 with orders, Garcia said.

In response to that demand, at least eight new meat-processing facilities have started up in Ohio since last fall, she said.

Among the challenges for people launching a meat-processing business are finding land for the facility, securing a bank loan, getting commitments from enough producers, and attracting a customer base, Garcia said.

“There are a lot of moving parts many people don’t realize,” she said.

A business owner will need to decide whether the facility will follow and be inspected for state standards, allowing the meat to be sold within Ohio, or federal standards, allowing it to be sold out of state.  

“The whole intent of the toolkit is to give people an idea of what’s coming their way,” Garcia said. “We’ve provided about 70% of what they need to know. The other 30%, they’re going to have to learn as they go.”

To access the free meat toolkit, visit go.osu.edu/meatoolkit.

To find out about a series of meat-cutting workshops, visit go.osu.edu/meatworkshops.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Lyda Garcia