The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront many challenges the agriculture industry regularly faces. One of the most prominent issues was the marked decline in the ability to process meat caused by the partial or complete shutdown of many large meat processing facilities. Consumers faced a shortage of meat in the grocery stores, and producers dealt with overcrowded facilities when they were required to hold over market-ready livestock. While large packing facilities shutdown, small meat processors were called to work overtime to help local consumers put meat on their tables. Many of these processors were understaffed and overworked prior to the pandemic, and the fast shift to a demand for local meat exacerbated those issues. This pandemic has also caused a shift in consumer preferences, and many more are interested in purchasing directly from local producers and processors. However, there are not enough small processors to meet this need. There is a strong desire by producers to take more control of their marketing options, but few possess the knowledge to operate a meat processing facility. This proposal will aid producers in the upper Midwest navigate the requirements of establishing and operating small processing facilities.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Familiarize partners with regulations and requirements of the meat industry
- Aid partners with regulatory decisions based on their business goals
- Provide technical assistance in processing techniques and skills necessary to operate a small meat processing facility
- Educate partners on proper sanitizing and food safety practices
- Assist partners in the development of realistic production goals