Meat Packing Plant on the Chopping Block

The Mt. McKinley meat packing plant in Palmer is under the funding gun. According to the state division of agriculture, the slaughterhouse loses about $100 thousand dollars a year. At a meeting last week, the state’s Board of Agriculture and Conservation approved a move to bring in an outside company to evaluate the financial health of the slaughterhouse. The BAC gave the nod to bringing in Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, an Oregon company, to determine if the meat packing plant should be placed into private ownership.

Niche will work with the Alaska Farm Bureau on the evaluation, according to Farm Bureau executive director, Amy Seitz.

“So the Farm Bureau came up with the idea of bringing in an outside consultant, who is not tied to the industry here in Alaska, or the plant. The hope was that if a third party came in an looked at the plant and could give us a recommendation, there would be a starting point to move forward.” 

The Farm Bureau first had to get approval from the BAC, she says. Seitz says the process is in it’s early stages, but the way is open now to move forward.

Mt. McKinley is subsidized by the state, and state funding cuts are driving the decision to evaluate. The legislature has approved money for the plant for one more year. But the slaughterhouse is the only US Department of Agriculture certified facility of it’s kind in Alaska’s southcentral region, and meat for commercial sale must have a USDA stamp. Seitz says closing the plant will hurt state livestock producers, which raise a variety of animals, ranging from buffalo, and reindeer to yaks.

Supporters of the move to privatize the facility say it will save the state money, but Seitz says general fund dollars do not support Mt. McKinley.

“The state is losing money, but it’s not coming out of the state’s budget. It’s interest that the farmers are paying.”

Seitz says that Mt. McKinley is funded through the interest on state revolving agricultural loans. The last fiscal year, the plant did turn a profit of over 40 thousand dollars.

Mt.McKinley employs three full- time state workers, and is staffed with thirteen inmates from Goose Creek Correctional Facility.