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Agriculture

$20 million slaughterhouse proposed for Watertown

slaughterhouse1.PNG
Julia Botero
/
WRVO News
Jay Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator, explains the plan for the proposed processing plant to a group of farmers and agricultural staff.

 

When Steven Winkler’s hogs are full grown and ready for slaughter, he loads them into his truck on his farm in Rodman and drives 70 miles to a processing plant in Rome. From there, his pork is shipped to stores in Syracuse. 

“I’m very loyal to the customers and the processes I utilize down there. They do a great job.  But this is my home,” Winkler said.

Winkler wants to sell his meat close to home and he wouldn't mind a shorter trip to place that can make that happen.

“My children are here, my farm’s here, the fire department, the schools. That is who we should be benefiting. Not that I don’t mind shipping out to the city but we could be doing a high end facility where the livestock is and that’s in the North Country.”

There are a lot of cows in The North Country. If you count the beef cattle within a 100-mile radius of Watertown, that number will come close to 150,000. Most of those cows are driven south to be butchered.

Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator Jay Matteson says last year a developer approached him  about building a local slaughterhouse. The plan fell through but the idea stuck.

“We said this makes too much sense. We can’t let this die,” Matteson said.

Matteson and a group of farmers have since drawn up their own plans. This new processing plant would be a mile from Interstate-81 in Watertown. Around 60 people would work there.  Students from Jefferson Community College could learn the trade through a culinary program at the plant. The building would also be discrete so people nearby wont be reminded about what’s going on inside. But Matteson says the city of Watertown still needs to approve the project. 

“We believe its going to happen. We have some hurdles to go through but all in all everything is very positive.”

Matteson says he hopes the plant will be up and running by spring of 2017.  They've even selected a name -- Thousand Island Meat Products. If you want to know which local farm supplied the meat your taking home for dinner, you'd just have to read the sticker on every package.