Vt. Produce Firm Expanding Meat Business

Black River Produce has purchased a vacant factory once used by the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company to meet demand for locally produced meats.

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. (AP) — A Springfield produce company is expanding its meat business by buying a vacant factory once used by the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company.

Black River Produce bought the building from the town of Springfield so it can expand its meat processing and shipping operation and take advantage of demand for locally produced meats, said Black River Business Development Manager Sean Buchanan.

"We needed to have a separate facility geared toward our meat operations," said Buchanan. "I think the biggest thing is that the local meat part of our business has grown over the last three or four years."

The change is expected to create eight new jobs.

Restaurants and small, local markets throughout Vermont have long demanded more local meat, Buchanan tells the Claremont Eagle Times (http://bit.ly/GB1La4).

The company is preparing for larger retail operations and Black River will be able to buy from more New England meat farms and provide a wider range of cuts to potential customers, officials said.

Buchanan said that as dairy producers struggle, more and more dairy farms are becoming meat producers. And large New England grocery stores have already begun selling local produce, bread and cheeses. The logical next step is for those retailers to begin carrying local meat, Buchanan said.

"You realize the next piece is going to be fresh meat," he said.

Black River bought the building last week for $125,000.

The company is now going to renovate the electrical system. It's hoped the new facility will be in operation by the end of the summer.

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