Sunderland could get small poultry processing plant

MassLive, November 30, 2018, by Mary Serreze

A small poultry processing plant could be coming to Sunderland.

Peter Laznicka has placed a 40-foot shipping container inside a 40-by-100-foot metal building on Russell Road. “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,” the farmer told the Greenfield Recorder.

Reached by phone, Laznicka described a “really clean system” for processing around 200 chickens per week in compliance with all public health and agriculture regulations.

“One of my most important thing is respecting the neighbors,” he said. “My goal is to be invisible, while providing a valuable local service. I make sure anything leaving my facility is safe. When I do something, I want to do it well.”

He’s been in the business about six years, running a mobile poultry processing plant. However, the mobile processing has its limits.

“You need a different setup for every farm you visit, and you need different local permits in every town,” he said. “This way, with a centralized facility, a farmer can raise a few birds and bring them to Sunderland. It’s more cost effective.”

He said in addition to small farmers, his services will be helpful to the average homeowner who wants to raise backyard hens.

Laznicka raises his own birds on the Sunderland property, but they don’t lay eggs.

“They are meat birds,” he said. “They are raised until they are about six to eight weeks old.”

He said he currently takes his birds to a facility in Rhode Island, and agreed that a shortage of meat processing plants in the region poses a problem for small farmers.

Poultry processing capability has been a “major limiting factor” in the growth of the local food movement, said Claire Morenon, communications manager for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, or CISA, the South Deerfield non-profit best known for the “Be a Local Hero – Buy Locally” campaign.

“Raising animals is only half of it,” she said. “Functional agriculture infrastructure is necessary for poultry and meat production.”

Laznicka in 2016 tried to open a poultry processing plant in Belchertown at the New England Small Farm Institute. However, the proposal was denied by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which decided that the use was prohibited under the local zoning bylaw.

Laznicka’s proposal will be before the Sunderland Board of Selectmen on Monday.