This morning at the Ohio Grown: Local Food Creating Local Opportunities conference at The Ohio State University, I had the pleasure of announcing that Ohio is the first state to join the interstate meat shipment program created by the 2008 Farm Bill. The program provides an opportunity for state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines, helping these small businesses access new markets.
Before, state-inspected meat facilities like these were limited to selling their products within the state. This new program ensures that they meet federal food safety standards, which will be administered by state food inspectors and agriculture officials and overseen by USDA. Several small meat processors in Ohio plan to lead the way as the first state-inspected facilities in the country to take advantage of the program.
For example, Ben Fligner, owner of Great Lakes Smoked Meats in Lorain, is proud to be able to expand a business that produces 35 varieties of fully-cooked smoked meat products like andouille sausage, kielbasa, bratwurst and knackwurst.
“We plan on having the ability to triple our business,” Fligner said.
A grocery chain outside of Philadelphia, PA, has already agreed that once Great Lakes can ship interstate, 300 of the grocery chain’s 900 stores will sell their products, increasing their wholesale consumer base exponentially. Fligner is also proud to boost Ohio’s economy.
“Once we get this federal okay, we can market in other states and ship directly to customers,” he said. “It can only help the state of Ohio.”
Lou’s Sausage in Cleveland produces approximately 30 varieties of fresh meat and poultry sausage products. The chicken for their chicken sausage is sourced from an Ohio-based firm that processes free-range chickens with no antibiotics or additives. Joe Vinciguerra, who operates Lou’s with his brother Frank, sees $1 million in growth potential for his business over the next few years.
For Lou’s, this program couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. One of their major purchasers, whose business accounts for 40 percent of the company’s revenue, just purchased property in Chicago and intends to open the first of six stores in late August.
“Now that I know I’m going to be able to cross state lines,” said Vinciguerra, “it opens up a lot of opportunities for me.”
Buehler’s Food Markets, based in Wooster, is a local grocery chain that also produces its own products. Under the interstate shipment program, Buehler’s intends to produce a line of bagged meat and poultry soup products intended for wholesale sales outside of the state.
Derringer Company, which distributes up to 1.5 million meals annually to senior citizen meal programs in Ohio, and Premier Food Management, which distributes some 360,000 hot meals to Ohio schools and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, are both based in Cincinnati. Under the new program, this prime location at the intersection of three states will enable them to provide meal services to customers across the border in Kentucky and Indiana.
Karen Moeller of Premier Food Management sees this as an opportunity to grow their workforce by nearly one-third.
“It’s going to allow us to expand. We fully intend to add as many as ten new people … over the next year-and-a-half,” Moeller said.