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USDA Invests $65K to Expand Local Meat Processing in Maine

Leigh Hallett
Release Date


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

Bangor, Dec. 19, 2023U.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:

  • conducting market and feasibility studies.
  • performing outreach to confirm state and federal food safety requirements and inspector capacity.
  • coaching farmers as they learn to meet processing schedules.
  • advising on pricing and capital management.
  • helping cooperative members market their products.

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 $2 million 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 (https://tinyurl.com/yhufpnam) or call (207) 990-9127 to learn more.

About Cooperative Development Institute:

The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is a regional 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 1994 by co-op leaders in the Northeast. CDI’s deep expertise in co-op development and cooperative food distribution networks supports communities and businesses to build a more prosperous and equitable economy. Learn more by visiting us at cdi.coop or contact Heather Holland, communications manager, hholland@cdi.coop.



USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.




Cooperative Development Institute

“There are currently no halal, USDA certified slaughterhouses in Maine or northern New England. Despite the recent growth of Muslim and other immigrant populations in the region, there are no local sources for these culturally relevant processed meat products. There is a need to develop an equitable local food production system in Maine that provides access to culturally relevant food, such as halal slaughtered meats. Maine farmers need a variety of tools to create a sustainable industry. By forming a cooperative to pool resources and expand markets, Maine’s farmers, producers, sellers, and consumers will all benefit.”

Katherine Bessey, Program Director at the Cooperative Development Institute


Five Pillars Butchery

"We are excited to receive support through the RBDG program for the research and development of a regional livestock producer cooperative and local halal brand. We are motivated to not only supply the Muslim and immigrant communities of Maine and Northern New England with quality local products, but we are happy to support regional farmers in gaining access to the rapidly growing halal food market, which has a projected growth of over eight billion dollars by 2028. We see it as a win/win for both our community and Maine farmers."

– Kathryn Piper, co-owner of Five Pillars Butchery

Two men and two women pose in front of the door to a large walk-in cooler.
The Five Pillars Butchery team.