BY TOM GRACE
THE DAILY STAR
On the morning of May 14, a ribbon was cut as Larry’s Custom Meats, a new USDAcertifiedslaughterhouse on state Route 205 in Hartwick, officially opened for business.
Owned by Larry Althiser, the meat processing plant has about 6,000 square feet of work space, with another 1,800 square feet of storage on the second floor.
“It’s a beautiful place and there are a lot of people I have to thank for pulling everything together,’’ Althiser, 52, said Friday morning.
Otsego County’s Economic Development Office, IndustrialDevelopment Agency, Chamber, and the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship played important roles in designing, promoting and financing the plant, he said.
He has six employees and plans to add more as demand grows, Althiser said. According to Zondra Hart, Otsego County’s economic development specialist, demand is likely to increase because area farmers have pledged to use Larry’s Custom Meats.
“Larry has a great reputation and farmers have said they’ll be processing more there because it’s certified by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture,’’ she said.
With a USDA stamp on their products, farmers will be able to sell their beef, pork, lamb and other meat products directly to customers including food stores and restaurants.
Farmer Cliff Brunner of Hartwick said that connecting farmers to consumers can only be a good thing.
“I think this is very good news for farmers in our region,’’ he said. Althiser, who has been butchering since 1979, said he’s eager to take such a big step.
“I feel good about it, and I want to make sure it works,’’ he said.
All signs are that it will, as he has heard from potential customers from as far away as South America, he noted.
Rob Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber, said Larry’s Custom Meats’ new facility, a nearly $1 million project, isa good bet for the county.
“Larry’s Custom Meats is known for high-quality service and smoked goods,’’ he said. “I think it’s going to take off.’’ With a second USDA meat processing plant in the county (the other’s is Steiner’s in Otego), farmers may now increase their livestock holdings, enhancing the agricultural economy while providing more local food, Robinson said.
Althiser, a 1976 graduate of Morris Central School graduate, said CADE was an invaluable resource as he sought to build a well-designed, efficient plant. On CADE’s website, the center notes that small independent meat processors can serve as economic engines wherever they are located.
“Increasing U.S.D.A. meat processing capacity is critical in supporting the growth in livestock farming in the region,’’ it reads. “As stated in the Food and Water Watch report, `Where’s the Local Beef,’ a rebirth of small slaughterhouses would breathe new life into small communities everywhere, give farmers and ranchers more options for processing their sustainability raised livestock and satisfy growing consumer demand for healthy meat products.”’