Alachua County physicians file complaints in opposition to proposed Newberry slaughterhouse

Press release from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Two Alachua County physicians will file complaints on Wednesday, March 29, with Florida Department of Health in Alachua County Administrator Paul D. Myers in opposition to the proposed slaughterhouse in Newberry. Both doctors are members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit public health advocacy organization with 1,101 physician members in Florida, including 25 in Alachua County.

“As an Alachua County resident and health care provider, I am very concerned about the slaughterhouse being proposed for Newberry and championed by Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia,” Gainesville physician Monica Aggarwal, MD, FACC, says in her complaint. “I assure you that red meat, the end product of a slaughterhouse, is the last thing we should be consuming if we want to prolong life for Floridians.”

The Alachua County Commission has voted to spend $2.5 million from federal funds allocated to Alachua County through the American Rescue Plan Act to build a slaughterhouse in Newberry. But it needs an additional $2.75 million in state funding to pay for the facility. The Alachua County Commission will accept public comment about whether or not to build the slaughterhouse at a Special Meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4.

“Abundant evidence links red and processed meat consumption to heart disease, colorectal cancer, and increased risk of premature death,” Dr. Aggarwal says. “These funds should instead go toward helping livestock ranchers transition to Florida’s health-promoting crops as farmers elsewhere are doing.”

Switching to plant protein like beans can help people lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, and maintain a healthy body weight. Some of Florida’s most popular food crops—blueberries, pecans, green beans, peas, watermelons, leafy greens, sweet corn, and peanuts—are an important part of a delicious and nutrient-dense plant-based diet.

In a separate complaint to Administrator Myers, Alachua County physician Sharon Hook, DO, explains, “Slaughterhouses create a large amount of solid waste that is laden with bacteria and chemicals that form toxic air pollution and contaminated wastewater. There are many health hazards associated with these emissions, but, moreover, the odor from these facilities precludes nearby residents from sitting outside their homes or opening their windows.”

In addition to the poor health ramifications of slaughterhouse products, decision-makers should consider the environmental degradation caused by slaughterhouses, as well as the occupational hazards and prevalence of foodborne pathogens. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that slaughterhouse workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States.

Commissioner Prizzia is attempting to push through the proposed slaughterhouse despite the fact that the local citizens who have spoken about it are opposed to it.

  • facts sent to the BOCC:

    Clearing the air about the Newberry Meat Processing Plant
    Alachua County is looking to build a $5.5 million taxpayer funded Meat Processing Facility in Newberry in their new Environmental Park. The county’s 34 page paper Table 4 says that at a production of 15 cows per day, the facility will generate 4.725 tons per day of “waste.” This is the non sellable parts produced by a slaughterhouse: blood, guts, bone, fat, hair, hides, gristle, and various leftover organic animal pieces parts.
    The plan is to grind this to a paste in an industrial wood chipper the size of a small house, take it outside, and “compost” it. This is a polite way of saying “rot in the hot Florida sun.” Regardless of using the best Best Management Practices, this is bound to produce some serious odors if not horrible odors. Animal organic waste does not compost in a day, it takes weeks if not months, so the amount being composted on site at any one time will be huge.
    The county proposes to rot (I mean compost) 2.4 MILLION pounds per year of animal organic matter and do it 1/2 mile upwind of Newberry Elementary School. (prevailing winds are from the west and southwest) Has the Alachua County School Board been asked for their opinion on the wisdom of rotting 2,400,000 pounds of animal flesh per year upwind of their school?
    Animal waste composting usually involves using a front end loader to dig a trench, then covering the flesh with soil to attempt to control odor and flies. The compost is turned regularly. Digging trenches and mixing the compost with potentially toxaphene laced soil on a EPA Superfund site is simply beyond an insane idea.
    Regardless of the merits of building this Meat Plant, this is the WRONG location for it. On the other hand, since it is not upwind of my house, perhaps downtown Newberry IS a great location for it.

    • You could have stopped at “taxpayer funded”, the rest of the issues are ancillary.

    • your math is off. An avg steer weight is 1200 lbs. 18,000 lbs, 9 tons per day. 60% of weight is the avg meat per animal harvested. (5.4 tons) Bones and much of the “waste” you mention make up most of the other 40% (3.6 tons) and is actually useable/salable, of which bones are the majority weight. hides can be processed and sold. fat is salable. the actual amount of waste is minimal if best practices are used. odor will not be significant if best practices are used. composting meat waste is actually mixed with wood chips and soil. This is a small-scale plant to serve the smaller farms/families in a county with few reliable option for animal processing. This pork and poultry as well as beef. It’s essential infrastructure for local food security. Food security refers to quality and availability of food as well as price stability. Things that can’t be secured with the trans-national industrial systems in place. see the egg price increase, for example.

      • I share your view, Bill. Some simply want everyone to be vegan even by force if necessary.

      • Sorry to hear your claim of “my math is off.” The figure of .4.725 tons/day of waste per 15 cows processed is a county supplied number, from the 34 page paper written by Sean McLendon, the county’s main promoter of the slaughterhouse. If the numbers are wrong, then the county is spreading false information.
        Please read the county’s writings. The plant will NOT do poultry or ducks or turkeys or wild game. It will ONLY do cows, pigs, sheep and goats. This is not a taxpayer paid plant to supply all kinds of meat to as many citizens as possible, it is for ONE special interest client. Do the math and figure who.

  • Monica Aggarwal, MD, FACC, says in her complaint. “I assure you that red meat, the end product of a slaughterhouse, is the last thing we should be consuming if we want to prolong life for Floridians.” Really? Is this yet another twisted “woke” mentality advocating that we all eat bean sprouts like the morons in California? People who don’t eat meat usually look sickly and pasty-faced, which tends to reflect the sickly, morbid state of their mind. Give up meat to live longer? How much longer? A week, a month? This is pure BS. Real, hardy men want animal protein. Their muscles need it. All the limp wrist pencil-necked soy boys and girly men can subsist on their sprouts. A horrible stench in the air near the slaughterhouse? Okay, this is a real issue that must be considered and resolved. But kill a slaughterhouse to lower cholesterol? What a line of crap!!!! Perhaps the arteries to the doctor’s brain are already clogged?

    • these doctors mean well, but they are ignoring the reality that people eat meat. The facility is for poultry and pork as well as beef, fwiw. Not a “woke” issue, smh. They are right about the negative health facts about red meat, but that typically goes hand in hand with overconsumption along with other negative health factors-lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, etc for example. For the meat-eaters this facility would be a benefit by providing a proper facility for processing with best practices to ensure our community is getting high-quality food products, price stability, and availability. keep your maga politics out of it…we actually agree, but for different reasons. facts are facts

  • The slaughterhouse continues to be a solution search of a problem. NOT NEEDED Prizzia.

    • incorrect. As any smaller-scale farmer can tell you, this is desperately needed resource.

  • I love how these Doctors use words like “abundant evidence” to influence the general non-scientific public into thinking that there’s some miraculous study out there causally linking meat consumption and heart disease or mortality. Let’s be clear Dr. Aggarwal, there isn’t. The descriptive use of abundance doesn’t make a false claim more true just because you say it does.

    The facts can speak for themselves or do you not trust the science? Or just not your science?

    One of my the most comprehensive reviews on this subject was the Cochrane Collaboration from 2018 and 2020, which made clear, to date there is “little to no effect of reducing saturated fat on all-cause mortality or cardiovascular mortality.”

    Furthermore, “There was little to no effect on cancer mortality, cancer diagnoses, diabetes diagnosis, HDL cholesterol, serum triglycerides or blood pressure, and small reductions in weight, serum total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and BMI.”

    Now, if your practice of medicine is to make sweeping clinical claims on a population level and apply that to the individual level, then you are part of the problem with our current state of healthcare. It’s simply disingenuous at best and malfeasance at worst. Broad brush cookie cutter medicine like referencing HDL as good cholesterol and LDL as bad cholesterol doesn’t contribute to the conversation any longer.

    These Doctors are nothing more than glorified agenda driven propagandists purporting their intellectual superiority on unsuspecting individuals because frankly, we are apparently stupid.

    You’re argument is a fail.

  • A slaughterhouse in our back yards is not an attractive feature for Alachua County Fl.

    Slaughter house employees have to deal with what not many people want to be apart of. The clean up alone must be intolerable.
    I am concerned about the negative effects on the nearby environment, economy, reputation, and property when a slaughterhouse moved to town.

    • your concerns are understandable, but the facts on the scale and operation of this project should relieve you of your concerns. It should actually be good for the economy by providing jobs as well as a much-needed, cost-effective facility for the county’s smaller scale farms that are currently suffering from a lack of such a facility. Im a former cow farmer that was unable to compete in the existing market, primarily because of the costs involved in processing with the current available options.
      Reputation? not sure what you mean
      Environment? It would actually be environmentally friendly with the composting of the waste

  • Boohoo, we can’t live forever. I’d rather have a local burger than soy imported from China.

    • you just made an argument for the plant in case you didn’t realize it.
      We grow soy and corn to excess in the US

  • A couple of overcredentialed Kevins stuffing their culinary choices down the throats of the rest of us who don’t agree with them. (Hitler was a vegan, dontyaknow). Still, there’s no reason for taxpayer funds to go into this, it should be a private operation. The American Rescue Plan Act was a metaphorical pork barrel gusher, but the county commissioners want to make it literally so.

    • It’s actually the responsible thing to do. Taking ownership of our own problems with our own solutions

  • In the incomplete and highly one sided economic information the Newberry Meat Plant proponents have provided, there is a glaring omission. There is no mention of “User Fees.”

    Neither the anonymous county 34 page paper nor the “economic study” the taxpayers paid $9,812 to Christa Court at IFAS Food and Resource Economics mention the words “User fee.”
    When a small rancher brings in one steer for processing, and returns the next day to pick up the cooled meat, how much cash does he have to pay? This is the ONLY number a small rancher really cares about and needs to know in advance, and the answer is “??????” Will it be $0, $500, $1000, $1500 or $2000? This is the prime number in the Business Plan and the proponents refuse to calculate it.
    The entire economic viability of this enterprise depends on this one number. Since it is never mentioned, some have assumed it will be $0, with the county owned taxpayer paid for slaughterhouse processing county animals for no charge. This would require an ongoing subsidy of tax money every year forever. How much would that be? The proponents will not say.
    Len Cabrera is good at analyzing huge wastes of taxpayer dollars. He can have a great time with this story. Is he working on it? April 4 is next week.

    • I don’t think people would assume it’s free. But to have an average cost per steer processed at the Fort McCoy plant is about $1000/animal. They also have a minimum of six animals to process. At Nettles it’s around $500, but there’s a significant drop in quality at that operation.
      Both of those price points are prohibitive or small-scale farms and families.

  • How does the slaughterhouse benefit Commissioner Prizzia? I am against building it in Alachua County.

    • being uninformed makes you against it?
      It doesn’t benefit the commissioner. It benefits the farmers and consumers

  • Will the facility lower the price of locally processed meat and bring jobs/revenue to the area?

    • The county like other governments cannot wait to spend their Federal Covid money. The Feds allow them to spend it on local food production activities, like this slaughterhouse. The 34 page county paper claims this will also provide jobs training for unemployed youth and will somehow provide food for the food deserts in East Gainesville.
      If the farmers are making more money, they are likely selling for a higher price. The county commission does not require any of this meat to be sold locally at a discount, or even be sold locally at all. If a restaurant in Jacksonville pays more, the meat will be sold there. A few ranchers will make a little more, the average Alachua County citizen gets nothing from this project other than the bill.

  • Time for all you liberal climate change, vegan freaks to leave the rest of us alone and F off while your at it too!

    • when so ugly, reactionary and judgmental? “the rest of us”…smh
      And climate change is real

  • I want to repost my original article about the reasons why Alachua County is pursuing this project:

    It is often said that the last crop planted by a struggling farmer or rancher is houses in a development. Small and midsize farmers and ranchers are struggling to survive as they compete in global markets with little control over pricing.

    However, with investment in building a local food economy, these farmers and ranchers can play a crucial role in providing quality food and food security for our residents. Additionally, protecting agricultural lands, particularly in western Alachua County, is essential to the County’s overall land conservation strategy. These open areas in the west are critical to aquifer recharge. They also provide crucial buffers, wildlife corridors, and protect the rural character of our County.

    In support of our farmers, ranchers, and our environment, the Alachua County Commission supports a local meat processing facility.

    The economic impact of the meat industry on our region is enormous. Alachua County and its seven surrounding counties collectively represent 3 of Florida’s top 10 livestock-producing counties. The industry produces over $67 million in cattle, $566 thousand in hogs, and $1.1 million in sheep and goats.

    Surveys and discussions with our local ranchers have identified meat processing as a critical bottleneck to their products’ cost-effective and timely delivery. Because animals must be processed in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected facility to legally sell packaged red meat products to retail or wholesale outlets, better access is desperately needed to ensure the delivery of locally, sustainably, and humanely raised meat to our local and regional markets. When built, the USDA will have an inspector assigned to our facility.

    We envision a partnership with private industry to operate the processing facility. The vision includes creating a home for collaboration with Santa Fe College and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences for workforce training and research programs.

    Almost every step of America’s food supply chain has grown more concentrated in the past few decades. From manufacturers of agricultural inputs such as pesticides and equipment to commodity buyers and meat processors, growing corporate power has left farms and ranches vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of these massive businesses. Recent mergers and acquisitions continue the relentless trend of increasing corporate concentration across agricultural markets. For example, according to the White House, 82% of beef and 66% of pork processing are run by four firms. This consolidation gives the corporate middlemen the power to squeeze more profit from farmers and ranchers at the expense of their small businesses and consumers.

    Many animals raised by farmers in our County are shipped off to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and then processed in large slaughterhouses that often have dangerous working conditions and safety violations. The meat is then shipped back to our community and worldwide. The farmers receive very little money from this process, animals are treated as a commodity rather than living beings, and consumers have little to no understanding of the process. On top of this, the meat industry’s carbon footprint and environmental impacts are ever-expanding.

    Restoring local processing options to our local ranchers will help restore competition in our agricultural market and expand local market opportunities for our small and midsize ranchers. Processing options help protect their livelihoods, farmlands, and our local food security while ensuring that farmers receive a fair share of the total value of their labor. This facility will provide the highest standard of ethical and humane treatment for the animals and employees during processing and give local consumers the option of purchasing meat directly from our local producers. In addition, research collaborations will explore best practices for reducing the impacts of meat processing, such as composting waste, and exploring new products to increase local business development, such as dog treats or tallow-based products.

    Perhaps the starkest and most powerful lesson in the need for this infrastructure came during Covid when many meat plants and supply chains had to slow down or stop their operations, some permanently. Consumers felt the impact of this directly at their grocery stores. Fortunately, small local farmers and processing facilities picked up some of the slack in the rapidly increasing demand for local meat. Unfortunately, processing could not meet the total demand, so many of our producers were frustrated and scared as they tried to figure out what to do with their animals.

    With this effort, Alachua County is joining and supporting a major national initiative that challenges the massive, centralized meat processing operations by expanding local processing nationwide. Last year, the USDA announced several programs to help expand and upgrade meat processing facilities. In addition, USDA Rural Development offered $150 million through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/business-programs/meat-and-poultry-processing-expansion-program) to fund startup and expansion activities in the meat and poultry processing sector. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture also provided another $40 million through existing workforce development programs to provide a pipeline of trained workers to meet the demand for both processors and increased independent processing capacity. And the Agricultural Marketing Service and USDA are investing in technical assistance and resources related to meat and poultry processing grants. We aim to access these federal dollars through matching local and state dollars.

    There are legitimate concerns about how we raise animals, process them, and get meat products to consumers. With this facility, the County envisions a more humane, environmentally sound, and economically viable way to approach this challenge.

  • Just because some people are vegetarian doesn’t mean all people should be!! There are so many regulations now that I’m sure this slaughterhouse will protect the environment around them.

  • I am for the slaughterhouse. Why? Two words: food sovereignty.

  • >