Inmates to Butchers: Bill to Create a Training Program

NERRC Allows Residents to Sell and Process Meat

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Northeast Regional Corrections Center in Minnesota (NERRC) has a very unique program for their residents allowing them to process and sell meat. 

So, if you’re in need of a steak for the grill this summer, look no further than NERRC!

The men filed into the locker room throwing on their aprons and rubber boots gearing up to break down the hundreds of chickens they had slaughtered that morning. 

“Skin it, gut it, put it in the cooler for a couple of days and when that’s done, we process it,” said inmate Jake Truong. 

And, that’s exactly how Truong spends his day.

“Honestly this is like the highlight of my day here,” Truong said with a smile on his face.

Each year, about 600 men serve short sentences at the center and are placed into a specific work program.

“Certainly there are some who really don’t want to be out here and some who shouldn’t be out here for a number of reasons.  So, we try to make sure it’s a good fit,” said Program Supervisor, Becky Pogatchnik.

The farm, started in the 30’s, raises it’s own animals to process such as pigs, turkeys and chickens. 

The inmates eat much of the meat they process for their own meals. 

But, the facility also butcher’s animals for farmers. 

“We have some people who just raise chickens.  They can come here and get those chickens processed,” said Pogatchnik. 

Because the number of local butchers is dwindling some state lawmakers are pushing these inmates to become the next generation of meat cutters by offering them a chance to earn a butcher’s license while they are serving their sentence. 

“We’ve had a number of residents who have left here and actually gone into this sort of work,” said Pogatchnik. 

“I like it a lot.  It’s something I would like to pursue upon leaving here,” said Truong. 

Another bill is being proposed to answer a common concern of local farmers regarding a lack of meat processing centers in the region. 

Right now, farmers that bring in livestock have to travel more than 200 miles in order to sell their produce. 

Representative Jason Metsa has introduced a bill that will allow farmers to sell their produce locally to restaurants and grocery stores.

NERCC is also asking for a new $1.2 million food processing building.

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