Munsell's gave us a look at the poultry processing from a vantage point not many get to see.
The poultry industry in America has a diverse collection of growers and consumers. These operations span from farms producing of thousands of birds for contract with the nation’s largest producers like Tyson and Butterball, to rural residents with small hen houses for their own personal consumption, and everything in between. Over the last decade, there has been an increase in farms growing specialty poultry, like pasture raised and/or organic poultry, for direct to consumer sales through farmer’s markets or farm stands. For each poultry grower, there is a need for a processing facility that can suit their needs and provide them with a product they know is safe for their families and their consumers.
Munsell’s Poultry Processing is located in the central Michigan town of Fowlerville east of the state’s capital of Lansing and is ran by Matt Munsell. Matt opened his facility after a separate facility in his community ended their operation, leaving many growers scrambling to find a new processor they could trust and rely on. Munsell’s processes 50,000 birds a year, making them a small processing facility relative to the dominant forms of poultry processing operations run by large producers that supply our grocery chains. They process and package a wide range of birds, including geese, pheasants and ducks, and also non poultry animals like rabbits. Additional services are also available to those who want to process their offal as well. Munsell’s will take orders of many different sizes, from an order for one bird from a hobby farmer, to five hundred birds from a full-time grower. No matter the size of the order, Munsell’s will always give each bird the same amount of time and respect to ensure each product is safe and humanely treated and they are meeting their customer’s needs.
Munsell’s understands how much care and time goes into raising each bird and how practices can greatly vary between each producer, so keeping each order separate and tracking each bird as it goes through their processing line is a priority to ensure each customer goes home with the birds they brought in. Animal welfare and humane practices are also prioritized at Munsell’s, so they use only the best practices available to ensure the animals are treated with respect, like humane stunning methods and caging practices before processing. Munsell’s follows HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) practices to ensure they are producing a safe product for their customers, and they do their best to minimize their use of harsh chemicals in their sanitation practices without comprising the sanitary conditions of their facility by opting to use natural cleaning agents as much as possible.
Customers can coordinate with Munsell’s by scheduling by appointment for processing. Certain times of the year are busiest, but Munsell’s will always do their best to work with producers so they can provide their service. Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year for Munsell’s due to their popularity with turkey producers around the state, so customers often have to book a year in advance to ensure they can be fit into their busy processing schedule.
At their current scale, Munsell’s is doing very well economically and has a secure customer base. They have a broad and reliable customer base, and finding more customers to fill appointments is not a major concern, especially during busier times in the year. Sometimes finding available times to coordinate with customers can be limiting due to their size and the demand of their services. There are very few processors in the region that are comparable to Munsell’s in size and operation, limiting choices for customers across Michigan. When thinking about scaling up their operation or opening a new location to serve an even larger customer base, a major concern and limiting factor is their ability to secure labor. Munsell’s workforce is made up completely of local residents within the mid-Michigan region, including high schoolers and housewives. Obviously high school students work hours are limited due to school schedules, and people who are primary caretakers of children are limited to working only certain hours as well. Finding other sources of local workers is a challenge Munsell’s is facing. Securing a larger workforce would allow Munsell’s to process more birds each year, but having a position working the line at their processing facility is not conducive to some people’s lifestyles and the job is a demanding one physically. Munsell’s uses different tools like their public Facebook profile to advertise for positions, especially during the busy Thanksgiving season.
Munsell’s also gives back to their community by partnering with Michigan’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) association and their broiler contest. Munsell’s helps students of all different ages learn about food systems and helps harvests an understand of what goes into food production. Student involved in FFA have the opportunity to bring their poultry they raised to Munsell’s to learn about how poultry is processed.