Local meat processing plants busier than ever during pandemic

Local meat processing plants busier than ever during pandemic-7/14/20

SOUTHWEST, Okla. (TNN) -The coronavirus pandemic has caused struggles for almost every industry. However, there is one industry which hasn't been butchered, local meat processing plants. They've been busier than ever.

When COVID-19 hit, meat in stores sold out quick, pushing people to shop from their local farmers.

“People got worried about it and took matters into their own hands,” said rancher Jeff Chaffin. “Which for a local farmer and rancher, it’s a good deal.”

If you’re looking to take a cow to the butcher right now, finding a processing plant that’s not booked up through next year is going to be tough.

“Just do some calling,” said Chaffin. “You kinda got to book ahead. Usually I like to feed mine about 150 to 180 days. So I suggest you definitely have a kill date before you put them on feed.”

It’s been a great thing for the local meat processing plants. More business, means job security. However, for Sanders Meat Processing in Marlow, it means turning some customers away.

“Usually I kept Fridays open for the farmers,” said owner Jimmy Sanders. “If they had a broke leg or something, they could bring one in. I can’t do that now. I can’t bring them in, I’m full.”

It’s the same situation for Fifth Avenue Meat Processing in Sterling. Teddy Good says he hopes the wild game only processors are prepared for hunting season this fall, because most beef processing plants probably won’t have time to process any deer.

“Usually processors like us take in deer because it’s slow time for cattle,” said Good. “So it was an easy transition. Not many people are going to want to tell somebody with a 1000 pound steer ‘no’, so they can get a 70 pound deer.”

Sanders says he also worries about the show hogs next spring.

“I usually do like 350 pigs during the spring, and all the cattle people are booking that up,” said Sanders. “Because pig people don’t even have their pigs yet, so they don’t know. I’m afraid their going to be left out.”

Since the influx of new customers, Fifth Avenue processing has almost doubled their staff to try and keep up.

Good says he just asks that customers be patient with them.

“We don’t like being this far out,” said Good. “I think I can speak for everybody when I say that. We’re trying. We will get it figured out. Just bare with us.”

If you’re interested in buying meat locally, contact your area processing plant for area farmer recommendations, or check out the list put out by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

Just last month, the Oklahoma Career Technology Center and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry announced new educational programs to help curb the workforce shortage in the meat processing industry. You can find more information about those courses here.

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