Watertown meat plant developer: Proposed St. Lawrence County slaughterhouses could be outcompeted

This artist’s rendering shows how the New York Meat Co. at the Jefferson County Corporate Park would look when fully built. Submitted by Lunco Corp.

This artist’s rendering shows how the New York Meat Co. at the Jefferson County Corporate Park would look when fully built. Submitted photo by Lunco Corp.

Planners of small-scale slaughterhouses in Potsdam and Oswegatchie should be afraid of being overwhelmed by a larger meat plant being developed in the Watertown area, contends the developer of that plant.

Developer Michael E. Lundy, who is evaluating multiple sites in the Watertown area for his proposed 42,000-square-foot U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified facility, said he believes the proposed smaller plants in St. Lawrence County would have a challenging time competing with the larger facility.

“If I were in their shoes, I would be awfully nervous to build a small plant while knowing there’s an extremely large plant in the works,” said the West Carthage developer, CEO of Lundy Development Corp. “It’s just simple economics. If we’re doing between 100 and 400 animals a day, we’re going to dictate the market prices … I don’t think their plants would have much of an impact on us. But if ours comes to fruition, we could have a tremendous impact on them.”

If the plan materializes, New York Meat Co. would have the capacity to process about 100 head of cattle a day, along with 200 to 300 smaller animals such as calves, sheep, pigs and goats. Mr. Lundy hasn’t ruled out a controversial spot for the plant near Car-Freshner in the Jefferson County Corporate Park off outer Coffeen Street. But he is also evaluating two alternative sites in he town of Watertown, in which the plant could be the anchor tenant of an agricultural business park operated by the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.

Smaller plants

USDA-certified plants planned in St. Lawrence County, meanwhile, would be a fraction of the size of New York Meat Co.

Sparx, a for-profit business owned by United Helpers, recently proposed launching a slaughterhouse off Pine Street in the village of Potsdam that would process up to 40 beef cattle and 40 hogs daily. The facility would be in an industrial zoning district. Formerly occupied by the Potsdam Hardwoods plant, the property is owned by Leon A. Martin Jr. and a partnership of investors called M&R Storage. The Potsdam site is being considered after the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency decided not to allow the slaughterhouse in its industrial park off Commerce Lane in the village of Canton.

“We’re still looking at sites in Potsdam and Canton and will probably finalize our site within the next month or two,” said Stephen E. Knight, United Helpers CEO and Sparx company president.

He said “it’s difficult to say” how the slaughterhouse could be affected by New York Meat Co.

Kandace Dietschweiler-Hartley, owner of Serenity Acres Farm on Route 68 in the town of Oswegatchie, plans to build a 6,000-square-foot slaughterhouse on property she owns near her farm. The facility would process up to about 40 conventional and organic beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, lambs and hogs per week, with the goal of doubling that number in two years. Along with the slaughterhouse, her plan calls for an adjacent gas station and retail store that would sell locally grown meats. The plan calls for investing about $600,000 on the slaughterhouse — staffed by about 15 employees — and $400,000 on the store, she said.

Ms. Dietschweiler-Hartley, who said nearly 40 farmers in St. Lawrence County plan to use her facility, said she doesn’t believe a large Watertown plant would pose a threat. “It’s quite a way to truck animals out there — over an hour drive and a lot of time and energy,” she said.

Mr. Lundy, however, said he believes farmers across the north country will flock to the Watertown plant to be paid the most for their cattle. Smaller plants could find it difficult to compete.

“We’re going to be more efficient than they are just because of the scale of our automated operation,” Mr. Lundy said. “We’re going to set the market price for what we’re paying for cattle, and they could have to spend more to buy the cattle. It could put them at a very competitive disadvantage.”

Deciding on site

Mr. Lundy said his decision on where to locate New York Meat Co. likely will be made in about three months. Last fall, he was awarded $50,000 from the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant Program to conduct a study evaluating where to build the plant.

The study was started after Car-Freshner threatened last summer to relocate the 300-plus-employee company if the proposed meat facility was approved. Daniel Samann, general counsel for Car-Freshner, claimed odor from the plant would be detrimental to the testing of fragrances used by the manufacturer of pine-tree-shaped air fresheners. The proposed site is next to the FedEx building and about 2,000 feet from Car-Freshner.

Mr. Lundy said that Car-Freshner officials have been unwilling to meet with him to discuss the matter. He said the site in the industrial park remains attractive because it meets all of the utility requirements for a USDA plant. Alternative sites would require a significant investment in infrastructure.

“We’re still considering the industrial park because it’s so difficult to find what we need in regard to infrastructure,” he said. “We need a sewer line that’s big enough to handle what we’re doing, and we’d like to be in a location that would allow us to use well water for cleaning purposes.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Lundy said he has been willing to consider “the bigger picture” by potentially deciding on a site that could be the future home of an agricultural business park. The pair of alternative sites under consideration are each more than 40 acres, providing room for several businesses.

By Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times