Bringing Home The Bacon – USDA investment at Home Place Pastures will fund significant expansion

Published 8:13 am Wednesday, November 9, 2022

A Panola County company is one of two independent meat processing plants in Mississippi that will share $1.4 million in grants and loans for projects to build and increase meat and poultry capacity.

Home Place Pastures, located just outside Como, will use a $508,784 investment to substantially increase cold storage and processing, allowing them to significantly expand their business while also adding value to small family farms by providing a premium reliable market for pasture raised hogs.

Home Place Pastures currently owns and operates a USDA inspected slaughter and processing facility in the middle of its farming operation, which produces grass-fed beef and pastured pork, and runs an established weekly distribution chain to restaurants, schools, hospitals, and retail accounts in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

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The company also sells direct to consumers through their website, monthly box subscribers, on-farm restaurant and butcher shop, and farmers markets.

The Biden-Harris Administration made the announcement last week. Nationwide, some 32 independent processors will receive $233 million for similar projects, all part of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said President Biden‘s commitments through the American Rescue Plan to expand meat and poultry processing capacity, which in turn increases competition, supports producer income, strengthens the food supply chain, and creates jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas.

Several USDA officials on both the state and federal levels attended last week’s announcement event held at Home Place Pastures including Lacari Mosley, State Program Director for Rural Business-Cooperative Service in Mississippi, Dr. Trina N. George, State Director, USDA Rural Development in Mississippi, Dr. Karama Neal, Administrator, USDA Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Thaddeus Fairley, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency in Mississippi.

Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar represented Panola County at the event. Home Place is owned by Marshall Bartlett and Jemison Bartlett. The brothers have developed the business into much more than a meat processing operation, and have become known for their culinary events, special occasion opportunities, and weekly specials.

“The Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program will provide tremendous help to our local ranchers and producers,” said Dr. Trina N. George, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi.  “By expanding capacity and increasing efficiencies in the supply chain, we hope to create more jobs in Mississippi communities and reduce costs to families while supporting local businesses.”

Azar said, “It is exciting to watch an essential business grow from small beginnings to potentially a major meat processor, and at the same time maintaining their niche. The atmosphere of their operation speaks to what makes Como great.”

“Marshall and his family are committed to maintaining the essence of Como and next level products. Marshall and his family could have lived anywhere in the country but chose to come home to start a business, create jobs, and be successful for his employees and community,” Azar said.

Also in Mississippi, Cutting Edge Meat Company will use a $905,273 investment to establish a new USDA inspected slaughter and fabrication plant in Leakesville.

The company processes its own farm-raised beef, plus beef and pork from independent producers across Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida, and currently has a six-month backlog for additional processing.

Last week’s announcement is one of many actions that USDA is taking to expand processing capacity and increase competition in meat and poultry processing to make agricultural markets more accessible, fair, competitive, and resilient for American farmers and ranchers, and builds upon the Department’s efforts to transform the nation’s food system.

Photo: Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar (far left) and Home Place Pastures co-founder Marshall Bartlett were joined by state and federal USDA officials last week at the announcement of the half-million investment at the Como meat processing plant.