North Cascades farmers co-op seeks beef, pork and lamb producers

A group of local meat producers have created a new organization designed to provide members with meat processing services and cooperative-owned wholesale distribution throughout Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties.

The North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative will hold a meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on June 7 at St. Luke’s Educational Center in Bellingham.

Members of the group’s board of directors will present a business plan for the cooperative, as well as information about membership.

The business plan includes a key component to use a mobile slaughter unit, inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and leased from the Pierce County Conservation District. The unit will be stationed for six days each month at a farm site in Whatcom County, and possibly a site in Skagit County as well.

The cooperative also plans to develop its own meat brand: North Cascade Meats.

The group’s board has set production standards for its beef, pork and lamb ensuring that animals are pasture or grass-finished and no feed antibiotics or hormones are used on them, no petroleum-based fertilizers are used on pastures and no detrimental impacts to riparian areas are permitted.

“We’re really excited that local meat producers have formed the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative to market their products under a common label,” Jim Ashby, general manager of the Community Food Co-op in Bellingham, said in a May 18 press release. “We work with several of the individual producers now that belong to the co-op and know the great quality of their products. Our owners and shoppers will really value knowing that the same high quality standards will be behind all the products from the cooperative.”

The cooperative’s founding board of directors has been working with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center to develop their plan since 2010.

Matthew Aamot, a local producer and owner of Hannegan Farm and Home, has served as the cooperative’s secretary-treasurer.

“Initially we formed a steering committee in order to put together a group of producers to purchase a local USDA processing plant that was up for sale,” Aamot said. “That opportunity didn’t pan out, but we thought there was a great opportunity and potential for local producers to work together to co-brand and market, as well as gaining greater control of our own destinies by pooling efforts and resources.”

St. Luke’s Educational Center is located at 3333 Squalicum Parkway in Bellingham.

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