Livestock farmers overwhelm local butchers as meat-packing plants shut down

Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 5:52 PM CDT
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Desperate to offload livestock, more and more farmers are turning to local butchers as big meat processing plants continue to shut their doors, but there’s only so much the smaller processors can handle.

“We’re extremely busy,” said Frank Pelican, owner of Pelican's Meat Processing in Johnson, Neb. He and his family have been in the meat-processing business for decades. They typically process about thirty animals a week; last week that number jumped to 50.

“A lot of people would want to bring in two or three hogs which is normal,” Pelican said. “Now when they call they want to bring in fifteen to thirty hogs and for us, that’s just overwhelming.”

Frank Pelican’s son, Scott, said they are putting in as many hours as possible to try and keep up.

“It’s just crazy how much the phone rings and the people that are calling wanting hogs and beef and we’re having turn people down,” said Scott, noting it’s tough to turn farmers down. So many of them are running out space to hold their livestock and are being forced to euthanize their animals. “It’s frustrating to turn people down but at the same time you can only do so much.”

Duane Kaspers is a local farmer, who feels fortunate to still have a place to take his animals.

“They do a good job of getting things done,” said Kaspers. “I mean like Sandy said she worked Sunday even and Saturday. She’s been working seven days a week.”

As for how long they can keep up this pace Pelican said they’ll do their best.

“We’re getting a lot of new customers,” said Pelican. “But also I want to take care of the people who’ve been with me for thirty-five years so it’s hard to keep both of them happy.”