Five years after Cumbria farmer John Dunning had the idea of building a meat processing plant on his farm at Tebay, the Junction 38 Partnership was officially launched this week by The Prince of Wales, who has maintained a close interest in the project since its inception.
Taking its name from the convenience of its location just minutes away from Junction 38 on the M6 motorway, the new venture has 49 farmer members, each with a £2000 stake.
Target weekly throughput is about 1800 sheep and up to 60 prime cattle.
Beef, lamb, pork and venison will be sourced from the farmer members and elsewhere although all stock will be slaughtered at the on-farm abattoir run by the McIntyre family at Hawes, North Yorks about 30 miles away.
Junction 38 has cost £970,000 to set-up and has attracted funding worth £243,000 from Rural Regeneration Cumbria, £64,000 from Distinctly Cumbrian and £80,000 from Leader Plus. Barclays Bank has provided £232,000 of finance.
The site – valued at £250,000 – has been donated.
The lack of red meat hanging and cutting services available to farmers in Cumbria sparked the idea on the back of the success of the regular farmers’ market held at nearby Orton which has become one of the region’s most renowned for the quality of the food on offer.
Stock will be offered, a price agreed and arrangements made for animals to be slaughtered.
Payment is made within two weeks.
John Dunning said: “Farmers need a greater share of the retail value of meat and that means more co-operation through the food chain and the provision of processing facilities to handle specialist and added value meats.
“We’re going to see more farmers become interested in this type of venture as subsidies are decoupled from production and we believe there’ll be an increase in returns to producers supplying niche markets rather than supplying supermarkets with commodity meats.”