Vilonia's Cypress Valley Meat Processor Grows, Bucks Closure Trend

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Last week, Cypress Valley Meat Co. of Vilonia installed a $60,000 vacuum stuffer at its Hot Springs plant, making it the most recent expansion of the custom meat processing company.

The equipment will be used to make Irish-style sausages for a startup, F Nolan & Sons Victuallers LLC of Memphis, said Steve Goode, an owner of Cypress Valley.

“We think it will provide two, three, maybe as many as five new jobs in our Hot Springs location,” Goode said. Cypress Valley recently added its 10th employee and was looking to hire another one soon.

Cypress Valley first started processing deer meat at its Vilonia facility in October 2010 and then expanded to processing beef and pork products when it bought a 5,000-SF meat processing plant in Romance in August 2011. In early 2012, the company leased a 2,300-SF plant in Hot Springs. The Romance and Hot Springs plants both have an important feature: a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector on site to scrutinize and approve the meat.

The USDA stamp of approval allows Cypress Valley’s customers to sell their beef or pork products to restaurants or at farmers markets, said Andy Shaw, 34, another owner of Cypress Valley. Only five custom meat processing plants in Arkansas offer federal inspections, Shaw said.

Cypress Valley is bucking the closure trend among federally inspected meat processing plants in recent years, said Eric Mittenthal, a spokesman for the American Meat Institute of Washington, D.C., a meat and poultry trade association.

Mittenthal didn’t know exactly how many plants had closed during the last decade, but he said that he and others in the industry had noticed the trend.

The reasons behind the decline of federally inspected custom meat processors are varied and include a decline in the number of farmers producing livestock because of the rising cost of feed, Mittenthal said.

Shaw said he thought Cypress Valley would buck that trend because it produces its own sausages, as well as vacuum-sealing meats, which extends the shelf life of the product by about six months if frozen.

Cypress Valley has received assistance from Winrock International of Little Rock on running its business. Winrock’s advice has been “very important” to the growth of Cypress Valley, Shaw said.

Getting Started

In early 2010, Shaw was the meat supervisor at four stores that Goode had an ownership interest in — three Big Star Food & Drugs and a Cash Saver Food Outlet. But Shaw, 34, wanted to learn more about animals and “just see where everything comes from,” he said.

 

 

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