Journal Staff


Residents of Guam love meat and sea food. Any island buffet at a restaurant will typically include both.

According to Journal files, meats and seafood make up about 25% to 28% of Guam’s food and non-alcoholic beverage imports, totaling more than $80 million annually.

So, it’s not surprising that for decades, a longstanding issue for the agricultural community has been the lack of a slaughterhouse — why doesn’t Guam have a slaughterhouse? Does the island need one?

Many points have been discussed, including not having enough livestock to ensure demand for a slaughterhouse is met.

But the discussion of a slaughterhouse has everything to do with funding and construction.

Joseph M. Diego, area director of rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told the Journal the only two factors keeping a slaughterhouse from coming to fruition are who will run it and where the money would come from to build it.

However, he said, the USDA offers grants, loans and funding that could help solve one of these issues.

The majority of meat sold in stores is imported, as shown in the meat section in the Sumay Pay-Less Supermarket.
Photo by Morgan Legel

“The USDA is a part of the financing of the slaughterhouse,” Diego said. As far as funding for constructing the slaughterhouse, the USDA has the Business and Industry Guarantee loan program, which will federally guarantee a loan from a private vendor to a business. Additionally, he said, there are programs that support renewable energy and energy efficiency for when the slaughterhouse is open.

“Everything that’s associated with a slaughterhouse that could be associated with power — like solar power, or wind turbines, even a cooling system, whether it be refrigeration or air conditioning — we can possibly offset any running costs by providing a grant for those systems,” Diego said.

As to who would operate a slaughterhouse, Diego said this could be anyone from an individual with deep pockets who believes in the cause, to a coalition of producers who want to come together and pool funds and responsibility.

“The pieces of the puzzle are there — what is needed now is a feasibility study and to figure out if this is something that can work and it’s a practical solution,” he said.

Various feasibility studies have taken place through the years.

Diego said a slaughterhouse feasibility study was performed in 1980, and USDA awarded a grant to the University of Guam in the late 1990s, which commissioned a study. The results of that study were not made public.

A study in November 2010, was charged with evaluating the overall feasibility of establishing a slaughterhouse/meat business in Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and/or Rota “as a means of providing value-added agricultural development and business opportunities in the islands.”

The study was led by James Wimberly, president of Ag/Energy Enterprises LLC, under a subcontract to the University of Hawaii.

As a result, in May 2011, the University of Hawaii at Manoa was involved in a series of workshops through the Marianas Grazing and Lifestock Management Academy, a project of the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in collaboration with the Northern Marianas College. The Slaughterhouse Feasibility Workshop, was designed to review “key business considerations.”  Workshop sessions were held in Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Those efforts got as far as a draft business plan in August 2011.

According to the 1980 study, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Technical Reports Library, there were a few issues with the feasibility of the proposed slaughterhouse, including the assumption that civilian and military markets will choose local pork products over imported pork products and that Guam producers can replace 3.7 million edible pounds of imported pork. Also, that feasibility focused solely on the hog industry, and did not include any other animal type.

The study did recommend the facility be owned and operated by a farmer cooperative and offered that as the best solution.

The 1980 study also suggested that upon its initial opening, the slaughterhouse could handle 250 pigs to process in the first two months, but by the end of the first year, it would be able to handle 7,850 pigs.

But these numbers are 31 years old and the 2010 study laid out mostly a framework and issues for consideration.

“From my perspective, a feasibility study does have to be updated,” Diego said. “It would look at the marketing expertise, the economic feasibility, looking at supply and demand, what kind of meat would be produced, basically if it would be a viable business entity and whether a full-scale on-site structure or a mobile slaughterhouse is more practical for Guam.”

Diego said that a mobile slaughterhouse does exist in Guam, however it is not USDA-certified. This means that while meat can be processed through it, the product can not be sold and is for the producers only.

Mobile slaughterhouses with generators are economical, with industry figures showing the cost starting at about $175,000 (where processing carcasses would need to be done at another location), but their capacity is limited and there are under 10 in the U.S. mainland that are approved, according to Journal research. 

As for specifics required for the construction of a slaughterhouse building, it would need to hold an office for a full-time USDA inspector.

Currently, there are three consumer safety inspectors assigned to Guam, one assigned to the island of Saipan and one supervisory public health Veterinarian stationed on Guam that oversees this four inspector workgroup. These inspectors will provide appropriate inspection services for establishments with a Federal Grant of Inspection.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which the inspectors operate under, conducts inspection activities at all times when an establishment is conducting slaughter activities and at least once per shift at further processing establishments.

According to a USDA FSIS spokesperson, “In order for FSIS regulated products to reach the market, they must have received the benefit of inspection. Establishments seeking to obtain a Federal Grant of inspection to sell their product in interstate commerce for resale must meet certain criteria. At minimum, the applying establishment must have a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan, a Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure and a suitable facility.”

Within the walls of the slaughterhouse, swine, cattle and fowl can all be processed, but Diego said there would have to be a schedule with a division of days for each animal type, with cleaning in between.

The ultimate goal would be for Guam residents to choose local meat over imported meat, although there will likely be a price difference. But, if the owner and operator of the slaughterhouse chooses a multi-animal facility, there will be more options for residents to choose from. mbj

Type of meatAmount of importPercent of all imports
Meat and edible offal of beef$221,9022.2%
Meat and edible offal of pork$136,9901.36%
Meat and edible offal of poultry$469,1264.65%