The Cooperative Development Institute is facilitating the development of a cooperative halal meat brand and Maine’s first exclusively halal-certified, USDA-regulated slaughter and processing facility to serve the growing demand for halal meat from Muslim and immigrant populations in Maine, thanks to support from the USDA Rural Business Development Grant.
The cooperative will be composed of local livestock producers and Five Pillars Butchery, an immigrant-owned business based in Unity, Maine. According to CDI’s field technician, there are up to 15 farmers who are interested in working as part of this cooperative effort. Six of these farmers are BIPOC, several are new, and one farm is operated by a cooperative of Somali women.
Five Pillars Butchery expects to reach full capacity by 2028. Once at full capacity, the business estimates that over $2 million in sales will flow back to farmers in the cooperative. This growth will increase farmers’ ability to reinvest in farm infrastructure, hire more employees, and contribute to a viable and sustainable agricultural sector in Maine.
“This Rural Business Development Grant award is a prime example of the way we’re using federal dollars to create a multiplier effect,” said USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson. “USDA Rural Development is excited to support CDI in its work to help Maine food producers. They will offer an opportunity for sustainable economic development while creating more culturally appropriate food options. Maine benefits from the inclusion of new farmers, new ideas, and, most importantly, the partnerships that are central to supporting each of these. The Biden-Harris Administration made a promise to hold equitable access to programming at the center of our work. With investments such as this RBDG for CDI, they are delivering on that right here in Maine.”
“There are currently no halal, USDA certified slaughterhouses in Maine or northern New England,” said Katherine Bessey, Program Director at the Cooperative Development Institute. “Despite the recent growth of Muslim and other immigrant populations in the region, there are no local sources for these culturally relevant processed meat products. There is a need to develop an equitable local food production system in Maine that provides access to culturally relevant food, such as halal slaughtered meats.Maine farmers need a variety of tools to create a sustainable industry. By forming a cooperative to pool resources and expand markets, Maine’s farmers, producers, sellers, and consumers will all benefit.”
“We are excited to have received support through the RBDG program for the research and development of a regional livestock producer cooperative and local halal brand,” said Kathryn Piper and Hussam Al-Rawi, owners of Five Pillars Butchery. “We are motivated to not only supply the Muslim and immigrant communities of Maine and Northern New England with quality local products, but we are happy to support regional farmers in gaining access to the rapidly growing halal food market, which has a projected growth rate of over $8 billion dollars by 2028. We see it as a win/win for both our community and Maine farmers.”
CDI will use the $65,150 grant to provide training and technical assistance to establish the cooperative of livestock growers and processors. It will provide a range of supports including:
- Conducting market and feasibility studies
- Outreach to confirm state and federal food safety requirements and inspector capacity
- Coaching farmers to better understand animal husbandry to meet processing schedules
- Developing consistent pricing schedules to generate the cash flows required to grow, capitalize, and meet processing requirements
- Encouraging networking to reach new and larger markets to enhance sustainability