An owner of a Gardiner slaughterhouse is proposing to build a flash-freezing facility, saying it would make shipping Maine vegetables and meat across the country possible.

The Gardiner Planning Board is scheduled to review the proposal from Bill Lovely, the owner of the Libby Hill Business Park poultry and red meat slaughterhouse, and hold a public hearing at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. If approved, the facility could be open by winter. It would be the latest agricultural development in Gardiner, which has launched an effort to become a Maine food center.

“It certainly creates the opportunity of strengthening our ever-growing presence as a local food hub,” said Patrick Wright, Gardiner’s economic and community development coordinator.

The poultry side of the Libby Hill facility, operated by Common Wealth Poultry Co., opened earlier this year and is killing and processing about 2,000 chickens and turkeys per week. Lovely is also an owner of Central Maine Meats, which operates the red meat side of the slaughterhouse that’s expected to open before the end of the summer and a meat processing facility on Brunswick Avenue.

Lovely said the flash-freezing facility would measure 100 feet by 150 feet and include warehouse space next to the slaughterhouse. If the Planning Board approves the project, he said, he hopes to start building within two months and open in January or February.

Initially, he said, it will flash-freeze seaweed and other Maine vegetables for companies, but he hopes to freeze meat there, pending U.S. Department of Agriculture approval. The poultry side of the slaughterhouse is the only USDA-inspected facility of its kind in Maine and the red meat facility is one of five. That approval allows those products to be shipped across state lines.

Lovely’s company has set a goal of keeping more Maine-raised meat in the state, and it’s selling to Emery’s Meat & Produce, which opened a Gardiner storefront in 2014 and has another store in Newport. That was one of two recent, large retail food openings in the city, along with the Gardiner Food Co-op & Cafe, which opened on Water Street in May.

Lovely said the flash-freezing capability would increase the availability of the products that go through the facility, enabling them to be shipped nationwide.

“I think it’s going to help us a great deal,” he said.

Staff writer Paul Koenig contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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