Westport slaughterhouse secures funding, moves closer to opening

April 21, 2018 : The Herald News, by Kevin P. O'Connor

WESTPORT – Pigs in the pen and cattle in the field are inching closer to your plate.

The Livestock Institute, a non-profit group formed to provide local farmers with a slaughterhouse nearby, is accepting reservation now for farmers with animals ready to be processed.

The group is hiring, according to TLI President Andy Burnes.

“It is really turning out well,” he said. “It is an amazing building.

“We are almost there.”

The last local slaughterhouse, in Dartmouth, closed in 2007. Farmers since have had to truck animals to New York, New Hampshire and Maine to have livestock processed at a federally inspected and licensed facility.

Farmers tried to find a business willing to resume the work without luck. So they decided to do it themselves.

They formed the Southeastern Massachusetts Livestock Association, known as SEMALA, to search for financing to get the project off the ground.

MassDevelopment announced on Wednesday that it was instrumental in arranging $5.55 million in loans, most of it from BayCoast Bank, to make the project possible.

The money is almost all spent, Burnes said.

The group, now known as The Livestock Institute, purchased 10 acres at 287 State Road, next to Mid City Steel. A 10,000 square foot facility is up now with holding pens around it. Construction crews are still on the site.

The facility was designed to limit stress on the animals brought there. Temple Grandin, a nationally recognized expert on the humane handling of livestock, assisted in plans drawn up by The Dennis Group of Springfield.

The institute has grown in scope. In addition to a slaughterhouse, the group also regularly holds seminars and classes for farmers or people interested in joining the trade.

Meatworks will begin operation in July. It is designed to handle up to 5,000 animals a year.

The facility will employ nine to 11 people full time, Burnes said. There are jobs currently posted on the TLI website.

There are plans for a retail meat market at the site, but that could take a while, Burnes said.

“We’re not sure when the retail will open,” he said. “We are still working on that. Our main objective, right now, is to begin processing animals for producers.

“We have a lot going on getting the facility open.”

There will be an open house and a ribbon cutting this spring. Those dates have yet to be set, Burnes said.