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Editorial: A USDA slaughterhouse for Schenectady?

Editorial: A USDA slaughterhouse for Schenectady?

New Schenectady butcher could expand business and satisfy a regional need

The story about Abduallah Halal, a new slaughterhouse on Broadway in Schenectady, could have had an unhappy ending, as in the business could have been shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture just seven months after it opened. That’s because, despite what owner Shareeze Ali thought, the USDA had never determined the butcher shop’s status, and never came around to inspect.

Last week the agency did both, and said Ali can continue to do what she’s been doing: selling five to 15 goats and sheep per week to customers. Slaughtering and cutting up other people’s animals for consumption at home is what custom butchers can do, and custom butcher is what the USDA determined Ali is.

But now she wants to do, and be, more. She wants to process her own animals for retail sale, and the animals of others, as a full-fledged, USDA-certified slaughterhouse. And that could be very good news not only for her, but for farmers, restaurants and consumers who want to buy locally grown meat in upstate New York.

In the country, and Northeast in particular, there’s increased demand for such meat, but limited supply due to a serious shortage of small slaughterhouses. Farmers who want their animals killed, either for their own family’s use or for sale, must make appointments months in advance and often drive hundreds of miles.

The biggest obstacle to having a USDA-certified butcher shop, which means that meat from it can be sold to the general public, is the myriad of federal regulations, including paperwork and equipment requirements, and the presence of a USDA inspector on-site any time slaughtering is done.

Ali says she will have all the necessary equipment as soon as she purchases a new freezer, and will soon start building a separate office for the USDA inspector. She could then handle up to 20 animals a day and greatly increase her business. We wish her luck in getting certified, for her sake and the entire region’s.

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