More than 50 goats chomp on hay and mill around at ANM’s Farm, a small slaughterhouse near Wylie.
In a 1,200-square-foot metal building, owner Alex Macharia kills three to five animals a day and sells the fresh meat to customers. He opened six months ago next to a used car lot on State Highway 78.
“This is my American dream,” said Macharia, 34, a native of Kenya. “I’m trying to feed my family.”
His dream, however, has become something of a nightmare for Collin County officials, who fear his rural meat processing plant could pose health and environmental dangers. No one has documented any problems, but some wonder if he is handling meat safely and containing runoff from the slaughtering process.
County officials acknowledge that they have no authority to shut down Macharia’s operation. The state, not the county, governs meat processing plants, and Macharia’s meets Texas Department of State Health Services standards. So does a similar slaughterhouse outside Farmersville.
“We’re powerless to do anything,” County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said.
State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, has filed a bill in the legislative session that begins next month that would let counties block slaughterhouses. Cities can keep them out through zoning, but counties have no broad zoning authority in unincorporated areas.
“It’s a regulatory loophole they’re slipping through,” said Laubenberg, whose district includes both processing plants. “It looks like the eastern part of Collin County has become a dumping ground for these under-the-radar operations.”
Her bill would not force existing slaughterhouses to close. Macharia said he has invested $85,000 in his building and equipment, including hooks, knives and band saws. He said he chose his 3-acre location in a commercial area to avoid upsetting residents.
“I’m here legally, and I have a right to make a living,” Macharia said.
Customers come from throughout Collin County and from as far as Mansfield, more than an hour away, he said. He said the county’s growth and cultural diversification helped persuade him to open the plant.
For Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday last month, he slaughtered 82 goats over three days, he said. He sells slaughtered goats for $140 to $170, depending on size, he said.
Besides goats, he slaughters chickens and cattle. On a recent evening, a 1,000-pound cow carcass was suspended from a hook, waiting to be cut up.
Macharia said he taught himself to slaughter animals by visiting processing plants and reading. He willingly gave a reporter a tour of his business.
“I have nothing to hide,” he said.
‘I like all my neighbors’
Macharia said he knows his competitor, Alan Wali, who began a similar slaughterhouse on County Road 656 northeast of Farmersville four months ago.
Wali’s business, called Ryan’s Farm, has homes on all sides. The lots are large, and the closest home is more than 100 yards away.
A neighbor complained to county officials soon after the slaughterhouse opened. Tomie Herod wrote that she and others had “witnessed numerous offensive tactics.”
In an interview, she said she had seen goats being dragged into the building for slaughter.
“My daughter told her two children not to look over there,” Herod said.
Wali said residents normally can’t see goats being taken into the slaughterhouse on his 18-acre site. He installed metal siding on a wire fence to block the view.
“If anybody has any issue, I can talk with them,” said Wali, a Bangladesh native. “I like all my neighbors.”
The Department of State Health Services periodically makes unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses for code compliance, said Dr. Butch Johnson, director of the agency’s Meat Safety Assurance Unit.
“If we see a band saw that isn’t clean, we’ll hang a tag on it,” he said. “That means they can’t use that particular piece of equipment until they get it cleaned up.”
Another state agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, licenses retention ponds outside the processing areas. When operators hose down floors after a slaughter, the water goes into underground tanks. After being filtered, it flows into an evaporation pond.
Slaughterhouse owners must submit plans for the ponds to the environmental agency, said Chris Linendoll, wastewater permitting section manager. Once the plans are approved, the state does no onsite inspections, he said.
“We would inspect it if we got a complaint,” Linendoll said.
Third facility in works
A third person, Tien Vo, intends to open a slaughterhouse about eight miles south of Wali’s plant, according to paperwork filed with the county. He plans to slaughter goats, chickens and quails, records show.
County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said he worries that runoff from the slaughterhouses might contaminate nearby Lavon Lake, a drinking water source for North Texas.
He said he hopes Laubenberg’s bill passes and prevents any more operations from opening.
“It’s a health issue and a quality-of-life issue,” he said. “People move to the country to experience country life, not to live near a slaughterhouse.”
Source: Dallas Morning News
To visit Macharia’s slaughterhouse website, click here