Proposed goat and sheep processing facility faces initial hurdle Tuesday
Khna Chroeung, one of the founders of the Lotus Blossom ethnic grocery store in Fargo, is seeking to open a “small-scale” facility for raising and slaughtering goats and sheep in rural Glyndon. The meats would be distributed to local grocers and restaurants seeking greater access to such meats.
GLYNDON, Minn. — A local businessman is seeking to open a halal meat processing facility in Glyndon.
According to the agenda for the upcoming Clay County Planning Commission meeting, Khna Chroeung is seeking a conditional use permit to open the facility at 5112 100th St. S. in rural Glyndon. Chroeung was one of the founders of Lotus Blossom, an ethnic grocery store which opened in 2009 along Main Ave. in Fargo.
The first step towards opening the halal meat processing facility will be discussed when the commission meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20, on the third floor of the Clay County Courthouse.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, halal food is “permitted under Islamic Law” and must meet a variety of conditions related to its preparation, processing, transportation and storage.
Matt Jacobson, planning director for the county, explained that the conditional use permit which Chroeung is seeking is only one step in the process. “This is just one permit of probably three or four permits that they would need to obtain,” Jacobson told The Forum.
As its name suggests, the conditional use permit would impose conditions on the issuance of the permit. If those conditions are not met, the permit would become invalidated, Jacobson explained.
For example, Jacobson said the facility would likely need to be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture if they were only selling within the state. Should sales go across state lines, licensing would need to come from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Additionally, Jacobson said the facility would potentially need the green-light from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for waste management purposes.
The exact conditions which would be imposed have not been finalized, Jacobson continued. The conditional use permit allows the commission to evaluate local impacts but rely on those higher-ranking authorities for further guidance. “Most kinds of agricultural operations are permitted by right in this type of zoning district,” Jacobson said. “We are looking at mainly impacts to neighboring properties, traffic, things like that.”
According to Jacobson, the plant Chroeung is hoping to open would be “pretty small-scale” and raise between 40 and 50 goats and sheep at a time. The animals would be free-range, organic and grass-fed on site, a staff review of the application stated.
The site itself would consist of a one-and-a-half acre pen for the animals as well as a slaughterhouse, the review noted. Jacobson said the planned use is only a fraction of its total capacity. Up to 200 animals could theoretically be raised on the site.
As part of the application, Chroeung detailed the reasons for opening the plant.
“Due to the rising meat costs and shipping costs internationally, the area’s community international markets and restaurants are having a difficult time getting product to sell to their consumers at prices they can afford,” Chroeung wrote. “They are also concerned with frozen meat containing injected fluids for preservation to prepare for the shipping process. With the slaughterhouse project, we will provide those markets with fresh, never frozen, sheep and goat meat. The animals will be free range and organic grass fed for a healthier option for consumers.”
“From a consumer perspective, opening this business would not only increase the ability to obtain farm fresh meats, but it would also create job opportunities. Overall, we feel this business would become a success throughout the life cycle. We would provide a home with a good monetary living, farm fresh meats, and revenue that cycles through the community rather than to another state or country," Chroeung's written submission continued.
The Forum made several attempts to reach Chroeung Friday morning regarding the plant, however a response was not immediately received.
Shortly after helping open Lotus Blossom, Chroeung was charged with felony burglary, terrorizing and carrying a concealed weapon after an incident which took place in 2010 in Fargo. At the time, police reported that Chroeung brandished a katana and told his wife’s new boyfriend, "I could cut through you like butter."
Chroeung told police at the time that he did not intend to hurt the man, rather he wanted to coerce him into vacating the premises.
Whether or not Clay County ultimately grants the conditional use permit remains to be seen. Jacobson said that a final decision could be made Tuesday night, or the matter could be pushed back to a later date.
Given its relatively small size, Jacobson believed the halal plant would not be as controversial as the proposed Wholestone Farms pork plant in Sioux Falls. “This is pretty small relative to some of these bigger operations,” he said.
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