BRASHER FALLS - Patrick M. Kilcoyne has seen his family’s retail beef business grow over 40 percent last year and by similar numbers again this year.
But Mr. Kilcoyne, co-owner of Kilcoyne Farms with his wife, Sheila J., had a major crisis on his hands last week when he had a brief conversation with Thomas J. Liberty, who co-owns the Tri-Town Packing business in Brasher Center with his son, Jeffrey A.
The elder Mr. Liberty informed Mr. Kilcoyne Tri-Town Packing was no longer going to offer a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified inspection business because of turmoil with USDA inspectors and regulatory demands.
“It was quite a game changer for me. At the end of that conversation with Tom last Tuesday morning I was out of business. I have had a lot of meetings and talked to a lot of people since then,” Mr. Kilcoyne said.
The meat market requires the USDA seal on products for retail sale. Tri-Town was one of two USDA-certified slaughterhouses in St. Lawrence County and a major regional conduit for north country-raised meat that is sold to retailers, restaurants and distributors.
The Brasher Falls man turned his beef business into a retail operation in 2005 and since that time all of his processing had been done at Tri-Town Packing.
“I had been 100 percent with Libertys. They’ve helped me build my business. I live in Brasher Falls, and I have been based out of Brasher,” he said.
Mr. Kilcoyne said he has established a new relationship with the Adirondack Meat Company, a USDA-certified meat processing plant that opened its doors in February.
“It is a state-of-the-art facility, and they seem to be good people to work with. Now I live in Brasher Falls but my business is based out of Ticonderoga,” he said.
He said the time and transportation costs of moving the cattle from the fields of St. Lawrence County to the processing plant in the Lake George region pose new challenges.
“It’s 161 miles from my door to their door. It’s the difference between 10 minutes and six hours,” Mr. Kilcoyne pointed out.
The Brasher Falls businessman said his business is cyclical, and the demand is highest now with the summer tourist season bringing business to many of the restaurants he serves in the Adirondack Region.
“Sometimes during the year I am taking 10 to 15 cattle for processing a week. Other times it is only three of four,” he noted.
Mr. Kilcoyne remains hopeful and optimistic Tri-Town Packing will return to being a USDA-certified meat processing plant in the future, but he said after further conversations with the Libertys they all agreed it would probably be wise for Kilcoyne Farms to work out of both facilities in the future even if they once again become a USDA-certified processing plant.
He said he was aware there were issues between the USDA and Tri-Town Packing, but Mr. Kilcoyne said he was still shocked by last week’s developments.
“I never thought there would be a shutdown,” he noted.
The elder Mr. Liberty said last week problems with USDA inspection staff at the plant have been building for some time.
Mr. Liberty said there were no plans for layoffs and the plant, which has more than a dozen employees, will continue to process meat for people who raise livestock for their own freezers.