Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Visit to the Adirondack Meat Company

Big doings around town lately has been the opening of the Adirondack Meat Company, a processing plant (slaughterhouse) in Ticonderoga.  Local producers of local meat have had to go to Eagle Bridge or other fairly distant locales to have their animals butchered for sale.  AMC provides a much needed service in our area.  

Their primary focus is threefold, according to owner Pete Ward:  Humane treatment of the animals, sanitation and profitability. 
AMC processes beef, pork, goats and sheep.  To butcher buffalo, elk, etc. they need an exotic animal license, which they don’t have at this time.  They also don’t butcher poultry, so my girls are safe for now. 

It’s wonderful to see how a new local business is taking off, and what they’ll provide to the community in the way of jobs, and a delicious end product.  A retail store is in the works as well. 

Larry and I took a tour of the facility during their open house and received a valuable lesson in processing.  Before taking the tour, I had a broad understanding of how the animal gets from Point A (animal) to Point B (barbeque).  And here is, I believe, the opportunity for real learning.  

In brief, the animal comes in from the holding pen into the kill room, where its dismembered and gutted.  It then goes to a cooling room when the carcass temperature is lowered to approximately 39 degrees.  From there it goes to an aging room, where it stays for an average of 7-10 days. 

At that point, the carcass is cut into specific pieces parts and packaged.  Some is turned into ground meat.  It all ends up in the cooler for either pick up by the customer or for direct sale to the public. 

While it was awesome to understand the entire process, I found the kill room the most interesting.  Here’s where things really happen.   

A participant on the tour asked if someone could be in the kill room when the action was taking place, say someone who brings in their animal for their own personal consumption, and wants to watch the process.  The answer was no; only the processors and the USDA inspector are allowed in the kill room.  Understandable.   

But this is the opportunity to really educate people.   

I would like to put in the Suggestion Box that AMC install a viewing lounge adjacent to the kill room.  Bring in school groups for field trips – particularly little kids, educate them early - and let them see how this part of their nutrition pyramid comes to fruition.  Call it “Meet Your Meat Day.”  The permission slip sent home for parents to sign could have a smiling cartoon hot dog and hamburger on it, symbolic of some childhood innocence about to come to an abrupt end. 

Before it was a hamburger or hot dog, it was a critter on four legs coming in from the holding pen, none the wiser.  Then it becomes a hanging carcass, with its heart, liver and lungs on one tray and its head on another, to be inspected by the USDA.  Its hide is skillfully peeled back so as to not contaminate the meat, its hocks removed and innards eviscerated and put in a refrigerated holding tank, to be collected for rendering.  

I’m reminded of one of the few episodes of Duck Dynasty I’ve been exposed to. Phil Robertson graphically demonstrates for a group of elementary school kids how to dismember a duck.  Later, as he recounts the event to his wife, he says “And that’s when the little girls started to squeal.” 

I imagine there would be a lot of squealing going on in the viewing lounge at AMC.  Some of it would probably be coming from me.  But that’s okay.  Nobody ever said reality was pretty.  It is tasty, though.

Click on this link to learn more about the Adirondack Meat Company.

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