From its inception in 2001, EcoFriendly Foods has been processing both beef and pork. Poultry processing was also a key part of the original mission, but Founders Bev and Janelle Eggleston quickly learned that getting USDA-approval for both red meat and poultry inspection would not be an easy task. In fact, at that time, there wasn’t a single USDA-inspected processing plant in the country that handled BOTH red meat and poultry.
There are many explanations for this (some believe it entails politics and corporate interests), but the primary reason was simply that the USDA didn’t have any inspectors trained for both red meat and chicken. Most processing plants in the US were (and still are) highly specialized in regards to which species they will process (sometimes even which breeds) as well as what weights/ages they can accommodate. Because these specialized processing plants are collectively responsible for the vast majority of animal processing in the US, most USDA inspectors are trained to accommodate these specialized operations. Some consider this favoritism. EcoFriendly simply understand it to be the reality of supply and demand.
That being said, the process by which EcoFriendly was granted approval from the USDA for multi-species inspection (which was literally unheard of at the time) was lengthy and very challenging. Because they were such a small operation, and had so recently begun processing, the USDA approached their request for multi-species-trained inspectors with apprehension and shrewdness. And for good reason! Why should they invest time and money into training multi-species inspectors for a single small processing plant, without any proven track record??
It took nearly 3 years of exhausting dialogue with the USDA and countless expensive renovations before EcoFriendly was granted approval for multi-species inspection. However, after being granted that status, EcoFriendly became the only multi-species (red meat & poultry) USDA-inspected processing facility in the entire US – a true pioneer and leader for other small processors across the country.
So why did EcoFriendly Foods go through hell just to be allowed to process poultry? What is so damn important about poultry??
The short answer: They did it for their farmers! They wanted their farmers to be able to bring all of their animals to one place for USDA processing, not have to drive to two or three different processors for each species.
More of EcoFriendly’s story to come…