Rising Spring Meat Co. Rises to the Challenge
In the fall of 2011, longtime SBDC clients Jay and Laura Young, along with business partners Mike and Virginia Byers, came to the SBDC with a vision to purchase a recently shuttered slaughterhouse. The Youngs and the Byers each own successful and diverse agriculture-related businesses, and one aspect they both had in common was a need for a facility where they could bring their finished animals to slaughter.
It is common practice in rural areas for farmers to raise meat animals and to have the animals slaughtered at USDA inspected facilities in order for the meat to be resold under the individual farm brands. These farmers are dependent on small-scale local processing plants to kill, cut, wrap, and freeze (KCWF) the meat to be supplied to their customers. The closing of Cooper Street Meats in Spring Mills, PA, in January 2011 reduced the access for area farmers to USDA- inspected facilities. The remaining USDA-inspected facility is fully booked, often turning customers away. This directly impacts a farmer’s ability to get product to market and, as a result, impacts the local economy.
In response to this situation, Young/Byers formed a subchapter S corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the goal of acquiring the Cooper Street Meats facility and reopening it as a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse. The founders shared a vision of improving access to value-added (KCWF) products via the implementation of a set of principles and practices that included traceability: reliable tracking of an animal that comes to the facility insuring that the meat the customer receives in return is entirely the same animal they brought to the facility.
The overall vision was to start the processing plan (KCWF) for local farmers. Then, once that was open and operating, add a USDA-inspection day, and then finally add the retail component. Each of those steps required careful planning, hiring of employees, marketing of their services and, probably most important, a way to fund the project. Originally, the partners came to the SBDC looking for assistance in developing a business plan that could be pitched to investors. But as they worked with the SBDC, several commercial funding partners were identified, and after helping to create numerous iterations of their proformas, they successfully received funding from Northwest Bank, the Business on Banking program through the FHLB, the Centre County Industrial Development Authority and, finally, local investors, including the partners.
Now that their core revenue streams are solidified, they are taking some time to explore the feasibility of other markets they can tap into, such as offering halal and kosher products. Their retail shop also stocks other locally sourced, value-added food products that complement what is selling out of the refrigerated cases. But no matter what direction they take, they know the SBDC is ready and willing to assist them in the future stages of this little business, which has already had a positive impact for local meat farmers, local vendors and, of course, all of their loyal customers.