Mobile slaughter trailer enables quail operators to process 600 birds a day to meet demand from restaurants and retailers
ARDROSSAN, Alta. — A quail farm is spreading its wings and adding a mobile poultry processing facility to the business.
Arnie and Shirley Morris have raised quail for table eggs for almost 30 years, but they couldn’t find a way to economically process the tiny birds for the meat market.
The cost of slaughtering quail at other poultry slaughter facilities was too expensive.
After pressure from consumers and retailers who wanted the delicacy, the family bought a custom-made mobile slaughter plant from British Columbia this spring that allows them to process the quail on their own farm.
With buyers in Calgary and Edmonton, the family believed they had enough demand to buy the mobile slaughter plant inside a 28 foot trailer.
“If we can find 50 restaurants to take 50 birds a month, that would really work,” said Shirley.
“The meat is very tender compared to other white meat, which made us think it will get off the ground.”
Just like the birds, the small slaughter plant on wheels is a miniature version of large poultry plants.
Inside the trailer are wash sinks, an office, washroom, vacuum packer, chilling tank, ice-maker and processing unit. The killing and plucking equipment is at the rear of the trailer.
“It seemed to be a perfect fit,” said Shirley.
A provincial meat inspector and monitors the family four days a month as they pluck, process and freeze the quail for meat.
It takes four or five people on a good day to process 600 quail. With practice, they hope to increase production and increase the number of processing days. They raise 2,000 meat birds a month.
Son and daughter-in-law Dylan and Elizabeth Morris look after the processing facility, while another son and daughter-in-law, Conn and Juliana, raise quail eggs at their own farm near Kelsey, about an hour away.
The eggs are sold fresh or pickled.
Shirley and Arnie raise 15,000 hens at the main Ardrossan farm, which lay 10,000 quail eggs a day for sale throughout Western Canada.
Another 3,000 birds are waiting to go into the egg cages, while male quail birds are sold as meat.
The family has slaughtered quail to eat at their own table for years, but it has taken a few adjustments in water temperature and equipment to set the new slaughter equipment for quails instead of chickens.
“It is still a work in progress. It’s going a lot better than it was when we started,” said Arnie.
Proposed changes to the poultry inspection system will soon allow trained staff, rather than provincial meat inspectors, to monitor the slaughter process.
The changes would allow the family to move the slaughter dates, usually two days a week, to the weekends, when they can get more help to slaughter the birds.
The family might eventually consider taking the trailer to area farms that need a facility to slaughter their birds.
Many backyard poultry producers have no place to slaughter their chickens now that the province’s largest independent poultry facility in St. Paul has closed.
“It is an opportunity,” said Shirley.