"Demand for local processors has swelled in the last three years because shutdowns and lockdowns scared people about food sources being jeopardized and supply chains disrupted, so they sought local alternatives."
Blood smell filled the shop on a recent winter afternoon. It was unmistakable, metallic and musky.
A family friend, Mike, was elbow deep in meat when my husband, Glenn, and I arrived to process a steer from our farm. I learned that this meant we were working together to make this animal into food for our families. We were doing it ourselves because the few local meat processors have been completely booked since the covid crisis began and remain booked for the next two to three years. I had been hearing this same story from farmers all over the country.
Demand for local processors has swelled in the last three years because shutdowns and lockdowns scared people about food sources being jeopardized and supply chains disrupted, so they sought local alternatives. Glenn asked me to join him to learn how this process works.
It was an entirely new experience for me. With economic uncertainties looming, families and friends processing their own, or neighbors’, farm animals may become more common. What we learn in these hard times about growing and sharing food and about neighbors helping neighbors may help us all in years to come.
Mike cut up meat and deboned it. He then fed sections into a grinder. Once the meat was ground, he ground it again while his father-in-law, in his eighties, held a white plastic tube-shaped bag to the opening of the grinder to package it. Mike twisted and tied the bag. These steps were repeated, bag by bag, to make hundreds of pound bags of hamburger. Sitting at a small folding table, Mike’s son wrote the dates on bags with a black Sharpie, making piles of tubes of ground beef. A cat played in a boat that was parked in the shop; another small cat slept on the dusty boat seat.