Prince Charles spent two and a half hours at Raisgill Hall,
Orton, Cumbria when he officially opened the new meat cutting
plant Junction 38 run by a mainly farmer co-operative on February
|Prince Charles tours
the cutting plant
Prince Charles spent two and a half hours at Raisgill
Hall, Orton, Cumbria when he officially opened the new meat
cutting plant Junction 38 run by a mainly farmer co-operative
on February 6.
The Prince not only had a tour of the £680,000 state
of the art premises and was shown the type of carcases it
would be handling but met key people behind the project, which
has taken six years to come to fruition, as well as talking
to members of the co-operative over a cup of tea.
Steve Dunning, on whose farm the plant has been built and
one of the driving forces behind it, said: “Prince Charles
has known about our plans since he came to Orton Farmers Market
in 2000 and he has been following it closely. He was full
of praise for the venture and he wanted to know what had given
us the faith to go ahead with it.
“Just getting the ‘Royal seal of approval’ was
tremendous and it’s proving to have great feedback from
both new and existing customers.”
The visit attracted wide press coverage - Mr Dunning
said 2.5 million people watched the footage on BBC Newsnight
The meat cutting plant, was the brainchild of Mr Dunning
and fellow Westmorland farmer Richard Warburton - both
former NFU county chairmen - and they have driven the initiative
which has been funded by investment from a producer co-operative
and regeneration grant aid.
The whole concept of the plant was seen as a means for local
producers to carry on farming by getting a sufficient profit
margin for their livestock.
Fifty farmers and others with an interest in the venture
have each pledged £2,000 to join the co-operative and
40 per cent of the capital costs have come from funding agencies
Rural Regeneration Cumbria, Leader + and Distinctly Cumbria.
Bank borrowing has raised the remainder of the funding.
“The plant is a means for us to carry on farming by
getting a sufficient profit margin for our livestock,” said
“From slaughter to cutting there will be full traceability - this
is what buyers are looking for. Much of the meat will go to
the catering trade who are willing to pay a premium for top
quality local meat.
“The Junction 38 Partnership will be the wholesaler,
so there will be no middle man and the premium will come to
us,” he added.
To reward those producers who have been prepared to take
a risk in the venture, co-operative membership will be closed.
A database of members and their stock will be kept and cattle,
sheep and pigs will be sourced from what is available from
the members and to maintain throughput purchases will be made
at local auction marts.
Members will also benefit from receiving payment within 14
days with other suppliers being paid within 21 days.
Once the operation is into profit, the surplus will be split
with 50 per cent distributed among all members and the remainder
allocated on the amount of stock sold by each member.
The livestock will be purchased by the partnership’s
sister company, Lakes and Dales Born and Bred which will find
a market for the meat.
Slaughtering is at Macintyre Meats’ Hawes newly built
abattoir where carcases will be bar coded before transportation
for cutting and packing at Raisgill Hall, where there is also
the latest computer technology, allowing complete traceablity
of the meat.
The new building which measures 70ft by 140ft, includes chiller
rooms and freezer rooms as well as cutting and processing
areas. Its construction has been managed by a neighbour of
Steve’s, David Garrick who has kept the project running
Large capacity storage will enable cuts to be sold to customers
who require big volumes of particular meats such as lamb shanks.
Half the building has two floors allowing office and other
staff facilities to be on the first floor.
The plant also has preparation rooms for further processing
such as sausage making and ham curing by producers themselves
who hold the relevant HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control
Point) food safety training.
It has accreditation from the Soil Association which means
that local organic producers now have a specialist facility
in the county.
The plant will also cater for farmers producing only small
quantities of meat for processing, such as those who sell
at farmers’ markets. They will be able to brand the
meat with their own label.
Original plans for the venture had included an abattoir as
well as a cutting plant at nearby Tebay.
However, because grant aid would not have been available
for an abattoir because of competition already in the area,
this idea was dropped.
The cost of the proposed development at Tebay at an estimated £1
million meant that the farmer’s co-operative would have
had to find half the funding.
Switching the site to Raisgill Hall enabled under EU funding
rules for the value of the site to be included in the farmers’ contribution,
making Steve’s site at Raisgill Hall ideal for the venture.
The whole idea was sparked by a remark about prices and how
farmers might as well give their lambs away.
As a result, Steve and other farmers from the area offered
free samples of lamb to those using the Tebay motorway service
The feedback from the people was good and it started what
have become regular sales of Cumbrian lamb in London.
“At the time a 40kg Rough Fell lamb was selling live
at auction for £29-£30 whereas a boned rolled
lamb shoulder was making the same price at the London meat
market, adding great value,” said Mr Dunning, who rapidly
saw the advantages of adding value to his product.
In the run-up to the opening of the plant, the sister company
Lakes and Dales Born and Bred has been processing between
400 and 500 lambs a week which have met a ready market.
The Raisgill Hall plant has the capability of processing
1,500 lambs a day in one shift and should there be the demand
it would be possible to run two shifts.
The plant at Raisgill Hall is licensed to process all species
of livestock, with the exception of poultry.
Staff have been recruited. Vic Dawes, who has been with Lakes
and Dales Born and Bred, is the cutting plant manager and
the team is ultimately likely to number 18 people.
© Copyright 2005 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights