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Riverton poultry processor could be first in state

Riverton poultry processor could be first in state

Jun 21, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Facility may be the only one of its kind to be licensed in Wyoming.

The first state-recognized poultry processing facility could soon be open just north of Riverton.

Chris Sherrard and her husband, Les, are completing the construction of a processing building with a plan to open in mid-July. The building is on property adjacent to their working ranch.

Wyoming Department of Agriculture consumer health services manager Dean Finkenbinder said the Sherrard's could be the first in the state as long as it is open before another planned facility in Sheridan. He was unsure how far along the Sheridan group is.

"There really hasn't been interest in poultry slaughter," Finkenbinder said.

The Sherrard's facility is expected to undergo its first state inspection Monday.

"The state has been more than helpful," Sherrard said.

The decision for the couple to go out on their own came in February after parting ways with another local group.

The couple is in the process of securing a grower/producer exempt license that will allow them to grow 1,000 chickens for processing and sale each year.

"The only thing you can't do is sell across the state line," Sherrard said.

The facility consists of a holding pen to keep the birds in before slaughter, a slaughter room and a dressing room, where the birds are processed and packaged.

Sherrard said that through her state-licensed facility, she will legally be allowed to sell her chickens not only to individuals but also to restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.

She doesn't yet have commercial clients, as she wants to see how well she can keep up with the work.

With her current holding facilities, Sherrard said she can raise about 100 chickens at a time for processing. She will raise several turkeys starting later this month so they'll be ready in time for the holidays.

The hair stylist got her start in the chicken business four or five years ago after a client suggested she get into it.

"'With the clients you have, you should get chickens and sell eggs,'" Sherrard recalled Dave Phillips urging her.

Sherrard said she wouldn't have gotten started without Phillips, who has since passed away.

"He helped me order my first batch," she said.

Sherrard has been trained in egg grading and hopes to be able to add that to her business soon.

She said her chickens are natural and would not be treated with salt water or chlorine. She is looking into buying organic feed for the birds, but the cost is prohibitive for now.

"I think eventually we'll grind our own feed," she said.

On their ranch, the Sherrards grow their own barley, wheat and corn. They are learning the recipes needed to grow successful chickens.

"The restaurants are very excited about having farm chicken," Sherrard said.

Another branch of L&C Poultry Processing, Sherrard said, is that the facility can be rented out by other chicken growers.

Under the building's current exemptions, it can be rented out by others, but the Sherrards cannot do the processing themselves. Only the owners of the birds can actually do the work. This would allow those individuals to sell their meat.

However, Sherrard said she would supply not only the facility, but also ice and cleaning afterward.

Eventually she would like to get an upgrade to her license that would enable her to process other individuals' chickens. The birds would still need to be sold by the original owner because of growth and age requirements.

For now, Sherrard plans to operate with her and her husband, but she said they might end up needing to hire more help.

She's also looking into the future. The decision to put the building on property the couple usually rents out is so they'll be able to expand if need be.

"I think this is going to be a good contribution to the local food movement," Sherrard said.

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