BANGOR, MAINE — A new halal meat cooperative is being established in Maine through a $65,000 Rural Business Development Grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The grant was awarded to the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) to facilitate the development of the meat brand and a halal-certified, USDA-regulated slaughter and processing facility.

“There are currently no halal, USDA certified slaughterhouses in Maine or northern New England,” said Katherine Bessey, CDI program director. “Despite the recent growth of Muslim and other immigrant populations in the region, there are no local sources for these culturally relevant processed meat products. There is a need to develop an equitable local food production system in Maine that provides access to culturally relevant food, such as halal slaughtered meats.”

CDI will use the grant to provide training and technical assistance to establish the cooperative. More specifically, the institute will conduct market and feasibility studies, ensure compliance with food safety requirements, coach producers on how to meet processing schedules, advise on pricing and capital management, and help cooperative members market their products.

The cooperative will be composed of local livestock producers and Five Pillars Butchery, a family-owned halal meat company based in Unity, Maine.

CDI said up to 15 producers are interested in joining the cooperative effort, with representation from Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, new farmers and a cooperative of Somali women.

Five Pillars expects to reach full capacity by 2028. Once at capacity, the company estimates over $2 million in sales will flow back to producers in the cooperative. These funds will be used to reinvest in farm infrastructure, create more jobs and improve the sustainability efforts of Maine’s agricultural sector.

“CDI’s work with Maine food producers will foster sustainable economic development while creating more culturally diverse food options,” said Rhiannon Hampson, state director of Maine.