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business plan for small meat processing plant

Small Meat Processor Business Planning Guide

business plan for small meat processing plant

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Meat processing business tool kit, breadcrumb menu, exploring a meat processing business toolkit.

This toolkit is a set of resources for entrepreneurs interested in starting or expanding a meat processing facility or those interested in exploring the industry. These resources are tools that entrepreneurs can use as aids in their decision-making processes. The tools in this kit are focused on Ohio, but can be replicated for other geographies. All these tools are meant to be individualized based on an entrepreneur’s unique circumstances and goals. Using these tools does not guarantee success.

The tools in this kit are intended to be individualized and aid entrepreneurs with decision-making about meat processing enterprises. However, these resources do not anticipate every decision an entrepreneur will need to make and entrepreneurs will likely need to utilize additional tools and resources. For more assistance, please contact any of the staff located in the Contact Us portion for more help.

Getting Started

In the early phases of exploring a new or expanded meat processing business, entrepreneurs may want to assess the potential need for an enterprise in their region by reviewing the region’s livestock production, current meat processing capacity, and the various models for meat processing enterprises. Below is a list of questions to review and answer before moving forward. Questions are designed to give readers an idea of the basic approach to getting involved in the meat industry.

Questionnaire 1

Questionnaire 2 

Understanding the Capacity of the Region

The tools below can help entrepreneurs explore the potential need for a meat processing facility in their region based on current processing capacity and livestock production. Check the user information guide in each resource to see how you can adapt the material for a specific geographic area.

Ohio Map of Federal and State Inspected Facilities and Auction Sites

Ohio Livestock Inventory Information by County

Livestock Inventory Data Workbook

Considering Different Models

There are many different types of meat processing enterprises, from cooperatives and corporations to mobile slaughter units and high-volume slaughterhouses. This bulletin explores models that have been used around the United States to develop or expand local meat processing enterprises via farmer engagement, partnership, or investment. This is not an exhaustive list of meat processing models. It is a review of some innovative models utilized by producers and processors.

Farmer Focused Models for Local Meat Processing

Moving Forward

As entrepreneurs explore the opportunity to start or expand a meat processing enterprise, it is helpful to develop a business plan and assess the financial requirements of the future venture. The tools below are intended to help entrepreneurs develop informed, comprehensive plans that can be utilized to make decisions about the opportunity. Entrepreneurs may also use business and financial plans in obtaining loans for a business. 

Business Planning

A business plan can help entrepreneurs communicate their ideas, identify areas they have not considered, and develop their understanding of the industry and business they are exploring. Entrepreneurs can use the following documents as templates for writing a business plan. This includes a link to Iowa State University’s Guide to Designing Small Red Meats Plants , which may answer questions about facility planning and needed supplies. In developing the plan, entrepreneurs will answer important questions like: How will the business be managed? How will the business market its products or services? What is the business’s competitive factor?

Guide to Designing Small Red Meat Plants by Iowa State University

Cooperative Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Ohio Regulatory Contacts

An important step in the business planning process is financial modeling. The templates in these toolkit models will help entrepreneurs estimate start-up costs, income, and expenses to understand the financial viability of an enterprise. Entrepreneurs should use information specific to their operation to develop accurate projections.

Co-op Financial Start-Up Model Template

Financial Model Template

Exploring Funding Sources

Meat processing is a capital-intensive business and entrepreneurs exploring a meat processing business will have to plan for the financial needs of the enterprise.  This tool outlines types of funding that an entrepreneur might use to build or expand a meat processing business, along with examples of potential funding sources.

Exploring Capital Sources for Meat Processing Enterprises

Feasibility Study Example

Entrepreneurs planning for a meat processing business may conduct a detailed analysis to determine if an enterprise is economically feasible. Entrepreneurs may also use a feasibility analysis to help build their business plan. Future processors and others can use the analysis as a model for conducting their own assessment with updated data and information for their own circumstances, or they can use the analysis to check their business planning assumptions.

Meat Processing Feasibility Study, Adams County, Ohio

Oklahoma Small Meat Processing Feasibility Study by Oklahoma State University 

USDA Poultry Processing Feasibility Study in Southeast Michigan

Additional Resources

Niche Meat Processing Assistance Network

Contact Us for Assistance

Staff and faculty at The Ohio State University are available to assist entrepreneurs who are exploring meat processing enterprises with business planning or better understanding the industry.

Ohio State University Meat Science Extension

Lyda G. Garcia, PhD - Extension Meat Specialist, Fresh Meats                       [email protected]                                                

Lynn Knipe, PhD - Extension Meat Specialist, Processed Meat and HACCP [email protected]  

CFAES Center for Cooperatives

Hannah Scott - Center for Cooperatives Program Manager                           [email protected]                                                  

Ryan Kline - Cooperative Development Specialist [email protected]    

OSU South Centers Business Development Network

Brad Bapst - Small Business Development Center Director  [email protected]                                                      

Chris Smalley - Business Development Specialist [email protected]  


So, You Want to Build a Meat Processing Facility? Five Initial Steps to Consider

Young producer inspecting meat in a locker with a digital tablet.

The need for more small meat processing capacity and skilled workers is not a new problem facing rural America, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an uptick in those interested in building small meat processing facilities. This interest can be related to a variety of motives: livestock producers with an interest in gaining more control over their end products, processors looking to expand their existing business or change inspection status, or an entrepreneur who has never been involved in agriculture looking to start their own business venture. No matter the reason for wanting to build, here are some steps to consider before diving in.

Step 1. Write a business plan.

To no surprise, the first step in building any business is to clearly identify what that business’ goals and structure will be. The SD Small Business Development Center can help with writing your business plan, a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider include:

Capital needs

Step 2. Hire an engineer.

Do your research and find engineering firms that have experience with meat processing plants. Meat processing facilities have special requirements and considerations, so having an experienced engineer on your side will pay off in the long run. Be aware that most engineering firms will require upfront payments for their services.

Step 3. Determine permits needed.

The types of utility permits you will need are dependent on your location. Check with your local officials to determine your specific needs.

Step 4. Explore financing options.

Loan officer meeting with a producer.

Your local bank may be willing to finance your business, but it never hurts to look into other options. Look for grant opportunities and other funding sources such as the SD Governor’s Office of Economic Development or federal assistance. Additional information about federal assistance programs can be found in this USDA resource .

Step 5. Identify industry mentors.

Maybe you grew up working in a butcher shop and are already a skilled butcher. If that isn’t the case and you haven’t worked in the industry before, you may want to find a mentor or someone familiar with the industry to teach you proper techniques. You can contact your state Extension specialists for training workshops or get some advice from your inspector about food safety questions but having someone in your corner who processes meat on a daily basis is also helpful.

Undertaking a new business venture can be both an exciting and a stressful time. However, proper planning and preparation on the forefront can help prevent costly mistakes and problems in the future.

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