Special Report: Butchering Back-up

Special Report

The pandemic has either changed or disrupted everybody’s lives in one way or another.

COVID-19 caused a slow down for meat processing plants, which affected cattle and pork farmers in Siouxland.

“I don’t think that we really grasp how serious it could be until we started getting into, close to the first of April. And then, when it did start happening, it really backed things up. We couldn’t get our, our market hogs processed. We couldn’t get them delivered,” said Bill Tentinger, a pork farmer.

“The supply chain, you know, the livestock was disruptedā€¦ We have gotten through the bulk of it now. Personally, I know there are still some people still, still dealing with delays and delivery,” said John Tiedeman, a cattle farmer.

Tiedeman said weathering a storm is part of agriculture and the COVID-19 pandemic is one of those storms.

“We reduced the energy levels in the rations for the cattle, so they don’t go overfat. So, that’s all, all our expense that we beared. It’s an inconvenience, it’s a problem, but we weathered it,” said Tiedeman.

Farmers in the tri-state area are finding ways to keep going during this unprecedented situation, but, for some, survival is a concern.

“We’re really depressed on our prices, [our prices] are really depressed right now. That’s what our biggest concerns right now is, is how can we survive, will we be able to surviveā€¦ Financially, you know, how long will it take to get caught up?” said Tentinger.

When big meat processing plants such as Tyson Foods and Smithfield temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, smaller meat lockers in Siouxland saw their business boom.

“We’ve been able to get in more cattle for the farmers that were losing everything. Brought in hundreds of pigs but we also, at the same time, turned down thousands of animals that should’ve been able to come into our building due to everybody having to put them down with all the processors being closed,” said Aunbrea Zeleny with Oakland Meat Processing Plant.

Oakland Meat Processing Plant, in Oakland, Nebraska, is having to schedule farmers six to nine months in advance to get their meat processed. Normally, they schedule six weeks ahead. They are currently booked out to May of 2021 for cattle and January 2021 for pork.

“We’ve been in a chaos. People started calling because they had the animals they could not get rid of out of packing houses, wouldn’t take them. Instead of bringing one animal in at a time, all the neighbors and their friends and everybody wanted a beef or half a beef,” said Doug Klarenbeek, Hudson Meats and Sausage.

Hudson Meats and Sausage is booked for cattle and hogs until August of 2021 and there’s currently a waiting list of about 375 people.

Because of the increased business, Oakland Meat Processing Plant has decided to expand.

“We will be growing another location. It’s something that we gonna have to do. COVID-19 was detrimental to a lot of the community and we’re trying to help everyone as much as we possibly can,” said Zeleny.

Expansion or not, deer season is going be much different this year.

“This is going to be a year where you learn it yourself. We’re not going to be able to fit any carcasses in our coolers because you have to have two separate areas for your deer versus your beef and your pork. We’re full to the max,” said Aunbrea Zeleny, Oakland Meat Processing Plant.

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