Two years after winning county approval, Midsouth Packing in Forsyth this fall began processing beef and is officially the first organically-processed, animal welfare-approved plant in Georgia.
“We’re going in the right direction,” said owner Joseph Egloff, who also owns Rocking Chair Ranch in Forsyth.
Egloff said they processed their first cow, one of his own, in September, and are now taking cattle from all over the South as they fill a unique niche in the organic beef market.
Egloff said he’s invested $1.3 million into MidSouth Packing and after two years of preparation is gratified to see it under way.
‘I’ve invested everything I’ve accumulated into this,” said Egloff. Egloff said he’s up to 10 employees now with a payroll of $350,000 per year.
Egloff said he’s proud to be providing jobs for Monroe County. For instance one employee had been laid off from the culinary department of a Macon college and had taken a huge pay cut working weekends at a grocery store until she saw the Midsouth ad in the Reporter. Now she’s making almost as much as before and able to spend weekends with her daughter.
“That made me feel a lot of my heartache (in getting Midsouth started) was worthwhile,” said Egloff. “She is so appreciative.”
Egloff said that organic beef ranchers have to have their cattle processed at facilities with a USDA certificate for organic processing in order to use the organic label. To do that, Midsouth has to provide an office, shower and bathroom to a USDA inspector on site during all hours of operation.
The result is a meticulously clean and careful process. Egloff said one co-worker who came from the medical field was stunned watching the inspector use a flashlight to inspect the kill floor before processing, searching for a piece of fat or meat the size of a pea.
The cut room has to be 43 degrees to prevent contamination, and Egloff said that’s one reason his power bill runs about $3,000 per month.
“It’s a lot more in-depth that I ever imagined,” said Egloff.
But it’s worth it, said Egloff, because Midsouth allows its customers to take their beef directly to market themselves rather than having to use a middle man. As they’ve learned how to process, Egloff said Midsouth is up to 15 heads of cattle per week “on the rail”, which means processed. He said when they get to 18-20 cattle per week, he’ll be very happy.
“We’re not far from that,” said Egloff.
For those wanting to enjoy Rocking Chair’s organic beef, it’s carried by Grits Cafe and several other restaurants in Middle Georgia. And now Egloff said they have plans for a retail location in Forsyth. The beef is also for sale at Village Marketplace at Ingleside Village.
When commissioners approved the processing plant on Hwy. 42 south near Maynards Mill Road, they stipulated no retail sales for beef, and also no deer processing. However since the county’s only deer cooler, Ernest Thomas Deer in Bolingbroke, announced it was closing this fall as deer season got under way, Egloff said he’s been inundated with requests to process deer. He said he wishes the county would allow it but said he hesitates to go before commissioners again.
“It’s a shame because I have the equipment,” said Egloff. “I could’ve hired Ernest’s whole crew. A lot of his people were depending on that part-time employment to make ends meet.”
While some opposed his processing plant, Egloff said he thinks most people have now realized it’s nothing like what opponents described. He said most people don’t even notice they are there and that fears of a bad smell have not panned out.