Damian’s Craft Meats (DCM) provides on-farm animal processing services for producers in southeast Michigan. Demand for Damian’s processing services has far outpaced the company’s capacity since opening in 2014. It surged to a new level during the pandemic when other regional processors were forced to shut down to control the spread of the coronavirus, exposing the need for a radical restructuring of the meat processing industry. Regional-scale alternatives quickly gained support and investment, and the owners are in a position to take advantage of these tailwinds as they plan for significant expansion.

 

Their Opportunity

DCM will shift from a farm-based model to a centralized processing facility owned and operated by DCM. The owners plan to open a meat processing facility in southeast Michigan that will be USDA-certified, technologically advanced, humanely designed, and focused on socially responsible slaughtering and processing. DCM will provide these needed services to local beef, hog, sheep, and goat producers that follow sustainable practices. DCM will also offer a host of curated value-add services, including custom butchery and meat products such as sausages and other charcuterie items, all while honoring the humane treatment of livestock, both in life and death.

 

Partnering with New Venture Advisors

The owners recognized that their vision would require extensive due diligence and sought USDA funding for a feasibility study and business plan. The company was awarded the highly-competitive Local Food Promotion Program grant and began working with New Venture Advisors in the spring of 2021. The study focused on producers and meat buyers to evaluate the strengths and challenges in the market for locally-produced meat. Over 100 stakeholders provided their perspectives through interviews, surveys, and focus groups. A single operating model—emphasizing humane handling, slaughter, and processing—was developed with the owners to achieve their mission and goals.

The model’s design focuses on providing technologically advanced, humane, USDA-certified slaughter and processing to support local demand amongst producers. The facility’s design incorporates space for specialty meat aggregation, specialized butchery services, retail sales, and workforce development training in meat fabrication skills. Analysis of potential sites that would provide access for a high proportion of local farmers while tapping into nearby urban centers for workforce support and consumer demand led DCM to select Washtenaw County as the eventual location for the facility.

The business plan will aid DCM in fundraising for an estimated $8.9 million investment for land, construction, equipment, and working capital.

 

Moving Forward

A project of this scale moves through multiple phases of development. The business plan includes a roadmap to guide the project from the completed pre-development work into implementation. Next up for the owners is to:

 

    • Formalize relationships with existing and potential clients and partnering organizations to form the foundation of a comprehensive sales plan to share with investors, funders, and stakeholders to support financial projections and capital needs for the project.
    • Create a fundraising plan to explore and secure diverse capital streams from both public and private investors, especially investors interested in the mission and values that are central to the project.
    • Finalize the facility design based on final site selection, and proceed into final architectural renderings as part of the implementation process.

 

Image: Cameron Watson / Shutterstock

 Whatcom County Food System Plan

The Whatcom County Food System Committee recently conducted a community food assessment that pointed to key opportunities to build a more robust and resilient regional food system. New Venture Advisors will partner with Whatcom County staff and the Food System Committee to draft a Whatcom County Food System Plan that builds upon these findings. This Plan will focus on six sectors of the food system including fishing, farming, labor, food access, environment, and waste, and will be informed by an inclusive and equitable community engagement process.  The Food System Plan will provide the county with a policy roadmap that will strengthen the local food system for years to come. (2022)

 Whatcom Local Food Campus

The Whatcom Community Foundation invests in activities and organizations that improve the ability of people to help themselves, increase connections among people, and take cooperative approaches to community issues. WCF is exploring the development of a local food campus on a waterfront property that would become a multi-tenant site, anchored by a school district commissary. The goal is to strengthen Whatcom County’s local food system by promoting health equity, forging tangible strategic connections between food production organizations, and helping farmers connect with institutional markets. NVA developed the business case for this ambitious project and continues to support its development. (2022)