We just wanted to let you know that other than for a few key exceptions, COVID-19 has not altered our lives. Some joke that farmers invented social distancing. People have avoided shaking hands because they are covered in grease from working on equipment. Folks tend to keep their distance, trying to avoid the odor of manure stuck to our boots.
How COVID-19 Affects Our Industry
But seriously, two things that have changed are the availability of meat and the ability to get it processed. There has been a huge surge in demand for locally raised and butchered meat. Many folks are realizing the downside of mass-produced and industrially processed meat. In my opinion, COVID-19 should not have been the impetus for the recent concern. Other pathogens like e. Coli should have been. We use a local slaughterhouse and butcher shop that is family-run. It is mostly family and extended family members who work there. Because they are of modest size, they can only slaughter about 10 beef per day. They do that two days per week. They do pigs another day. The rest of the week they butcher and package the meat. Alternating between animal species reduces the risk of cross-contamination. On days that they are cutting and packaging, the slaughterhouse portion is ‘resting’, i.e. drying out so pathogens don’t have the opportunity to flourish and further reducing the risk of contamination. The fact that most of the animals that are butchered there come from small herds, most on pasture, and many 100% grass-fed, the animals arrive clean and not covered in manure from being confined in a filthy feedlot. Again reducing the risk of pathogen introduction. The way the slaughterhouse is operated is the way slaughterhouses used to be operated and should still be operated.
Unfortunately, they are the last such facility within an hour of Baltimore and they are in high demand. The butcher shop side of the business has been mobbed with customers, which has forced the workers on the production side of the business to deal with the walk-in customers. This means production has slowed. We have had one slaughter date canceled and another postponed. This is forcing us to adapt our scheduling.
The second issue is that our sales have shot up. We have added more pigs to meet the demand, but it takes 5-6 months to raise a pig to full weight. Beef takes 2 years. Obviously we can’t turn up the beef supply quickly, so we will have to look at other sources. If we can find beef raised by people we know and trust, we might have more available sooner, but rest assured that we will not lower our standards. Folks wanting to get a half pig or 1/4 side of beef are being added to our waiting list. Right now, it looks like pigs will be available in about August, beef in November.
What does this mean for the CSA?
You might find that your shares fluctuate considerably. You may find your share heavy on pork one month until the beef gets butchered. And then the next month you may find it heavy on beef until the pork is ready. We may have to ask you to reduce your full share to a half share until the supply issues get worked out. Please be patient with us. We are trying to keep everyone supplied with good, nutritious meat.
Thanks for your support.