Mobile Poultry Processing on Nantucket

Sponsor: Sustainable Nantucket
Sponsor Liaison: Posie Constable
Student Team: Katie Bowles, Trevor Drane, Adam LaBombard, Charles Ritchie
Abstract: Sustainable Nantucket has funds for a mobile poultry processing unit (MPPU) to encourage chicken farming on Nantucket. The goal of our project was to create a plan and set of materials Sustainable Nantucket can use to negotiate with the Nantucket Board of Health and other entities for the approval and implementation of a MPPU. We observed an MPPU in operation on Martha’s Vineyard and evaluated regulations, farmer interest, operational logistics, and estimated costs on Nantucket. We concluded there is sufficient farmer interest to proceed and recommended the type of MPPU Sustainable Nantucket should consider purchasing.  We developed a financial plan, operating manual, and other materials to help Sustainable Nantucket achieve regulatory approval at the state and local levels.
Link: Chickens Final Presentation; Mobile Poultry Processing on Nantucket

Executive Summary

Being on an island, the people and businesses of Nantucket must import everything from fuel to food. Most food for the roughly fourteen thousand year-round residents and more than 50,000 summer visitors is shipped to the island by ferry. For several years, the nonprofit organization Sustainable Nantucket (SN) has endeavored to help reduce that load by promoting sustainable small-scale farming and other food production on the island. Like the rest of the country, Nantucket has seen an increasing interest in raising and consuming chickens, especially organic and free-range or pasture-fed chickens. Sustainable Nantucket has recently been provided grant funds for the purchase of a mobile poultry processing unit (MPPU), that they hope to use to aid the chicken farmers of the island in the processing of their livestock. 

The goal of our project was to create a plan and set of materials Sustainable Nantucket can use to implement their chicken farming project and negotiate with the Nantucket Board of Health and other stakeholders for the development and approval of their mobile poultry processing unit.

  1. Identify applicable federal, state, and local regulations and documentation necessary to create and operate a Mobile Poultry Processing Unit. 
  2. Evaluate the lessons learned by other communities in Massachusetts and elsewhere to try to meet the regulations and requirements necessary to implement MPPUs.
  3. Identify and assess the perspectives of the pertinent stakeholders on Nantucket regarding the promotion of small-scale chicken farming and poultry processing on island.
  4. Evaluate and determine the most appropriate MPPU technology and operational options for a Nantucket MPPU based on demand and regulations.
  5. Develop a business model and other deliverables.

To accomplish these goals, we did extensive research on relevant regulations and guidelines, assessed relevant literature, met with farmers on Nantucket to gauge levels of interest and concerns, observed an MPPU in action on MV, conducted site visits to scope out possible locations and operational logistics, and estimated likely capital and operating costs for an MPPU on Nantucket.



  1. We recommend an open-air MPPU stored in a closed trailer.

We recommend Sustainable Nantucket purchase an enclosed trailer similar to the one currently used by Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society (MVAS) that will protect the MPPU from the elements during storage and transportation. The trailer will store all materials except for “day of slaughter” purchases–such as ice, propane, bags, etc.–that are necessary for slaughtering small poultry, chickens, and turkeys. This configuration can be towed by a small truck, which means the MPPU will be more accessible to farmers should Sustainable Nantucket choose to use the unit at more than one location or change the storage location.

  1. We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket purchase an MPPU with flexible capabilities. 

Based on our comparisons of pre-made MPPU kits vs. building an MPPU from its various components, we recommend that Sustainable Nantucket opt for the latter approach. In particular, purchasing the components individually will allow Sustainable Nantucket to be more flexible in the design of their unit and to customize it to fit the demand of farmers and upgrade equipment as they expand.

  1. We recommend Sustainable Nantucket provide EPA approved chemicals to clean and sanitize the equipment per USDA guidelines.

The MPPU should have the cleaning equipment following USDA and Massachusetts guidelines for the safe handling of poultry. The chemicals Sustainable Nantucket should provide should be from the EPA list of environmentally friendly degreasers and sanitizers to protect wetlands in case of any runoff and to protect the cultures in the digester. Along with following proper procedures, using the recommended EPA endorsed chemicals will allow farmers to legally sell the poultry they raise for on-island consumption.

  1. We recommend that the MPPU be located at the Nantucket Wastewater Treatment Plant for processing and general storage.

This recommended location has easy access to water, electricity, and bathrooms, and has the facilities to dispose of wastewater from processing and cleaning the unit. In addition, there is plenty of space for the unit to be stored when not in use. 

  1. We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket work with local officials to allow safe disposal of the wastewater and of solid waste in current municipal facilities. 

We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket collect as much water as possible for disposal. We met with David Gray at the Nantucket Sewer Department and learned that that wastewater can likely be disposed of at the Sewage Department facilities. Sustainable Nantucket might consider having the farmers or operators of the unit transport the wastewater collected to the Sewer Department at a cost of $5 per l00 gallons.

We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket arrange for all solid waste to be collected and disposed of in the digester at the Nantucket Transfer Station. J.P. Caron from Waste Options told us they would gladly take any solid waste in the digester including feathers, offal, and wood chips that are used as absorbent on the ground. 

  1. We recommend that farmers that use the MPPU have a ServSafe certification.

Having a ServSafe certification, while not required, is recommended to farmers for the safe handling of raw poultry. This is a program recommended by OSHA and the USDA for proper food safety handling. We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket require that one or more of the workers running the MPPU at any given time have the ServSafe certification.

  1. We recommend that the process of slaughter follows the guidelines in appendix H.

The guidelines in Appendix H of this report provide detailed procedures that should be followed before, during, and after slaughter. These protocols are based on regulations and recommendations from the state, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDPH), and USDA that are relevant to the MPPU and other recommendations we made surrounding the type of MPPU and processing location.

  1. We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket follow the model HACCP (Appendix E) as a guideline when creating their own to apply for a license from MassDPH. 

We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket follow Tuft’s HACCP as it is one of the only examples of an HACCP for an MPPU currently in operation; it is what we based our model HACCP on. It will provide Sustainable Nantucket with safety guidelines required by the state and federal regulatory agencies.