Nestled in the hills of Amish country outside of Baltic, Pleasant Valley Poultry meets a variety of needs for both poultry producers and meat shop patrons. Owned and operated by Aden Troyer with his wife Wilma, and their children Marion, Daniel, Emma, and Leanna, the custom processing facility and retail store have flourished from the onset of the business.
The Troyers are part of the local Amish community, and when Aden first opened Pleasant Valley Poultry, he was looking to save costs on processing his own birds that he had raised for years and he wanted to help his neighbors out with their own meat processing needs.
“I was previously a farrier, and as I got older, I was looking for something not as strenuous and was looking for something for extra work and income for the girls,” Troyer said, “I started chickens as a sideline business, but within six months, it became full time. It has grown so fast, we can hardly keep up with it.”
In 2009, Pleasant Valley Poultry officially opened as a custom-exempt plant whose processed birds were not legal for market.
“We became fully state inspected in 2010, and in 2013, we became a USDA Cooperative Interstate Shipping Plant, which allows us to market our birds with a USDA stamp, process birds from other states, and allows our customers to sell their processed birds in other states,” Troyer said.
Operating on a 100-killowatt generator that runs the plant, coolers, walk-in deep freezes, and retail operation, Pleasant Valley Poultry provides custom processing services for chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other exotic fowl. And the business caters to a wide range of customers.
“Our customers go from anyone raising a backyard city flock of birds all the way up to small companies that bring in up to 3,000 birds a month. Consumer demand for buying local products from a local farmer that they know is what is driving this business,” Troyer said. “A big portion of our business is processing for small farmers who want to direct market to their consumers and can now sell their birds with a USDA stamp at local stores and farmer’s markets.”
One very attractive service is the variety of processing options available to customers. All products are vacuum-sealed and come with a USDA sticker, which can be customized for a fee at customer request. Chickens can be packaged whole, split, quartered, or cut up into smaller pieces, with cost for processing per bird increasing as more pieces that are ordered. Chicken livers and hearts are free except for a small packaging fee, and gizzard cleaning and chicken feet salvaging is also available for a small charge per gizzard/bird. Pleasant Valley will also grind birds into a variety of (nitrate and preservative free) sausage flavors on a minimum of 25 birds, for interested customers.
The processing facility butchers approximately 1,000 birds per day throughout the spring and summer; May through November the plant runs five days per week. Toward winter, production slows, as “the majority of the chickens we process come from pasture-raised flocks in warmer months. December is fair, January moderate, and February and March are really slow,” Troyer said.
Pleasant Valley Poultry is filling a niche market where there is great demand and not much supply, and customers come from far and wide to have their birds processed.
“We are one of only two federally inspected custom plants in Ohio,” Troyer said. “Today alone there are customers here from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Someone once traveled all the way from central Illinois to bring me a load of ducks. We are probably the only federal plant within 600 miles that will do a duck. In 2016, we processed approximately 117,000 total head.”
Retail sales are another aspect of Troyer’s business. Located alongside the processing plant is a 24-foot by 32-foot store front that sells Troyer’s own poultry products.
“What we stock in the store are frozen pastured chickens that have been fed non-GMO grains. If customers call ahead, they can order fresh pastured poultry,” Troyer said. “These birds are processed, like everything in our facility, with only organic antimicrobials in order to control for salmonella and other pathogens like E. coli and campylobacter. What we’ve got in our store is what we raise on our farms, on approximately 30 acres of pasture. We do a few Christmas geese and fresh turkeys in the fall for people that want a turkey that is fresh and never frozen for Thanksgiving.”
Also available are other specialty offerings such as capons, quail, silkies, partridge, squab, and Tur-Duc-Hen. The retail market offers labeled meat from a variety of chicken, duck, and turkey breeds, as well as different varieties of free-range, pasture-raised chicken and duck eggs. For retail and wholesale, Troyer estimates that he raises 3,000 chickens and 500 ducks a year, and around 150 guineas and some pheasant, primarily for the high-end restaurant market.
“Beginning in the spring, we start 500 chickens per month for the pastured poultry market, and in late summer we will start 500 chickens a week on our farm that will go to local school lunch programs for the winter months,” Troyer said.
From a small business perspective, Troyer said that adhering to USDA regulations can be a bit of a gripe, and sometimes consumer demands and expectations can be a little unrealistic.
“With the USDA, the rules are the same for big processors and small processors. Whether you process one chicken or 10,000 chickens a day, you are still regulated by the same rules. It is good when consumers are timely when picking up their birds in order to free up cooler and freezer space, which does not always happen; on the other hand, sometimes, customers expect to drop their birds off and have them done and ready for pick up in three hours, which is not realistic due to the regulation that birds have to be chilled down to 40 degrees internal temperature before they can be released,” Troyer said.
For Troyer, he most likes that his business is a family and community affair that is providing an important service to small-scale agricultural operations throughout the region.
“What I enjoy is being able to work at home with my family, employ local girls, and work with the local farmers,” he said. “And I’d like to put in a good word here for my employees — they are awesome. Without them and my family, I would have never made it. We have hundreds and hundreds of small farmers come through here, and we are here to make it possible for them to make some money as a family operation.”
The Troyer Family and Pleasant Valley Poultry are committed to providing “good old fashioned country flavor” for their customers, and deliver an outstanding finished product, illustrating their position that “Our commitment is to provide you with high quality poultry to fill those needs.”
Those interested in receiving a newsletter or price sheet can call the business at (330) 897-0626 or mail a request to Pleasant Valley Poultry, 3160 Pleasant Valley Rd. SW Baltic, OH 43804.