Selectboard expects to vote on poultry processing plant Monday
The Recorder, November 29, 2018, by Domenic Poli
The town could soon have a poultry processing plant, if the Selectboard approves a plan at Monday’s meeting.
Peter Laznicka has approached Sunderland for an approval letter for an operation out a building at 136 Russell St. He has owned the building for a couple of months.
“I raise chickens on a farm on pasture,” he said at a previous Selectboard meeting. The chickens live behind the structure at 136 Russell St. “It’s a really clean system. But part of raising chickens is having a way to process them. So, I have a 40-foot shipping container located in a 40-by-100-foot metal building. So, after I raise the birds, I’d like to process them on site.
“So, you open up the end wall, the birds come in, you shut the door, and then they go through the container and come out as food,” he continued. “The reason for putting it in a building is … if you drive by the road, walk by the road, you have no idea that chickens are being processed.”
Laznicka, who lives five minutes away in Leverett, said he has previously raised chickens on his family’s farm in Wellesley. He explained the metal container, which sits on a concrete floor inside the larger building, takes up about one-tenth of the space inside it.
“The facility will be spotless. So the goal is no one to know it’s there, really,” he said. “So there’s no outward change to the appearance of the building.”
He said the 40-by-100-foot building has a wood frame and a metal shell. He said about seven people showed up on Nov. 24 for a tour of the facility.
Monday’s meeting will consist of the continuation of the public hearing that began on Nov. 19.
Laznicka said he plans to process about 200 chickens — enough to fill the bed of a pickup truck — each week. He said each processed chicken is about the size of a football. The birds will be packaged on site. They will be put on ice and, once they pass a temperature check, bagged, labeled and “ready to go.”
When a woman expressed concern over the possible contamination of a nearby brook, Laznicka explained all waste will flow into a 12-foot floor drain.
“The container is located 3 to 4 feet from the wall … and the concrete is sloped to the drain, and it’s all collected there,” he said. “Really, there’s no possible way for it to not go into that drain.”
Laznickza said blood, which is considered a solid waste, will go into a catch basin and funneled into a hole to a 5-gallon bucket to be disposed of in an organic compost dumpster.
He said he has been in the industry for about six years, using a mobile unit to go from farm to farm. He said his season runs from the end of March to early November. He also said the idea of an odor associated with the process is a common misconception.
“Fresh birds don’t smell,” he said.
He also said the pasture-raised birds move around every day, meaning manure does not pile up.
Selectboard Chairman Thomas D. Fydenkevez said the operation is allowed by statute and he does not see any potential for “detriment to the community.”
“From my understand of the information that’s been presented, I do believe that the abutters, as well as the town, is protected with the oversight through the Board of Health and through the various state departments, the regulatory commissions that deal with a processing plant,” he said on Nov. 19.
Fydenkevez also said concerns can be addressed rapidly, and the Selectboard must ensure “everything is in place,” in case Laznicka decides to sell the building and leave.
Laznicka told The Recorder the operation will be a way to support local farmers.
“I think it will really be a positive thing for the community,” he said.
Monday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., with a 6:45 appointment set for the continuation of the public hearing.
Reach Domenic Poli at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.