About this idea
The disparate impact of the dual public health and economic crisis from COVID-19 is acutely felt by the meat industry, making this moment even more urgent. This window of disruption presents an opportunity to reverse patterns of inequality, consolidation, and disinvestment in order to advance an equitable food system and expand the local meat value chain in Southeast Michigan. This project presents an opportunity to rectify the needs that are especially apparent in our COVID-19 reality; problems that are complex and require collaborative solutions.
In Washtenaw County, Michigan there is currently no USDA inspected slaughterhouse facility within a 50 mile radius, resulting in limited processing capacity for local producers, especially for small farms. Damian’s Craft Meats’ feasibility study completed in October 2021 demonstrated that local farmers indicated that they are facing challenges due to traveling far distances for processing services, making advance appointments, and even securing slaughter slots.
The purpose of this project is to bolster the growth of Southeast Michigan’s meat sector through community collaboration and construction to expand the processing capacity, aggregation, storage, and distribution of locally and regionally produced meat products. While this larger vision is underway, Damian provides on-farm slaughter and processing services for his customers, with an emphasis Damian's Craft Meats' values for human and animal welfare, high quality, and environmental stewardship.
Damian is the co-founder of Damian's Craft Meats, alongside his business and life partner, Rosemary Linares. He has established a strong reputation throughout Southeast Michigan for his custom and craft butchering skills and humane treatment of animals. His team even includes vegetarians because of aligned values and a shared desire to incorporate culturally responsive and regenerative practices in the meat industry.
Leveraging past USDA and private grant funds, this public/private partnership will help realize the vision of a resilient, vibrant, and thriving Southeast Michigan meat value chain, serving as a replicable model for other sites across the country. Project leaders, both people of color, will drive the project, including completion of facility design, construction, and food safety plans, obtaining equipment, commencing operations, and securing a federal grant of inspection for a new multi-species USDA-inspected meat processing business in Southeast Michigan. Expected outcomes include expanded processing capacity and services targeted primarily to small farmers, including: livestock slaughter, value-added and other processing services, meat storage, and new distribution channels. By March 2026 this expanded capacity would include an estimated volume of 1,248 animals or 745,472 pounds of beef and pork processed in Southeast Michigan. If implemented, this facility would create nine or more new jobs, ideally in a rural area.
What I'll do with $5,000
If awarded, Damian's Craft Meats would purchase an electric stunner to process hogs and sheep. This piece of equipment renders the animal unconscious before slaughter. For folks outside of the meat industry, this request may sound a little jolting (no pun intended). To ensure humane animal treatment and welfare, effective stunning stunning methods "induce instantaneous [and painless] insensibility," as Temple Grandin writes in a 2015 article titled "Electric Stunning of Pigs and Sheep." The correct process of stunning an animal prior to slaughter ensures it will not feel pain. This is also a requirement for USDA-inspected slaughterhouse facilities. These instruments can be expensive, and with funds from this award, Damian's Craft Meats would be able to purchase a stunner to use for its current on-farm services and for the future facility once it is in operation.
Depending on the model selected for purchase, Damian's Craft Meats would use any remaining funds to buy an air-powered de-hider and/or stainless steal tables for butchering.
About Damian Rivera
Damian Rivera is an entrepreneur in the meat industry who apprenticed in USDA-inspected and custom-exempt slaughterhouses prior to launching DCM. His close connections with local producers and experience in humane handling, slaughter, and specialized butchery and cutting are what have led to higher demand for his services. These connections originated in Mexico with his family’s agricultural roots.