News | December 19, 2023

USDA Invests $65K To Expand Local Meat Processing In Maine

Cooperative Development Institute awarded grant to help small producers establish a halal-certified cooperative

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson today announced that USDA is awarding Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) a Rural Business Development Grant. The nonprofit will use the $65K grant to help develop a halal meat cooperative in Maine. The new cooperative will serve the growing demand for halal meat from residents across Maine and the region. It will also help make more local meat available in the state, shortening the supply chain for residents.

“This Rural Business Development Grant award is a prime example of the way we’re using federal dollars to create a multiplier effect,” said Director Hampson. “CDI’s work with Maine food producers will foster sustainable economic development while creating more culturally diverse food options. The Biden-Harris Administration made a promise to hold equitable access to programming at the center of our work. With investments such as this RBDG for CDI, they are delivering on that right here in Maine.”

The new cooperative includes livestock growers and processors who intend to develop a halal meat brand and a halal-certified, USDA-regulated slaughter and processing facility. Based in Northampton, MA, CDI will use the grant funds to advise and train the members of the cooperative in its early stages. Some of the key assistance CDI will provide to them includes:

Local Maine livestock producers and Five Pillars Butchery, an immigrant-owned business based in Unity, Maine, will comprise the new cooperative. According to CDI’s field technician, there are up to 15 farmers who are interested in working as part of this cooperative effort. Six of these farmers are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, several are beginning farmers, and one farm is operated by a cooperative of Somali women.

Five Pillars Butchery expects to reach full capacity by 2028. Once at capacity, the business estimates that over $2M in sales may flow back to farmers in the cooperative. This income will increase the farmers’ ability to reinvest in farm infrastructure, hire more employees, and contribute to the sustainability of Maine’s agricultural sector. As State Director Hampson noted, “Through this project, Maine benefits from the inclusion of new farmers, new ideas, and, most importantly, the partnerships that are central to supporting each of these.”

USDA RBDG Program is now open:

Towns, nonprofits, business cooperatives, federally recognized tribes, and other entities may submit RBDG applications. To be eligible for the program, a project must benefit small or emerging businesses. Rural Development announced several awards recently, including a grant for Island Institute to provide loans to small coastal businesses, one for the Sunrise County Economic Council to offer technical assistance to Washington County businesses, and one for the Poodunck Snowmobile Club to purchase new trail grooming equipment.

USDA accepts applications for the Rural Business Development Grant program for a limited period each year. The program is currently open and accepting applications through February 28, 2024. Visit the Maine RBDG webpage ( or call (207) 990-9127 to learn more.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)