For many years, the meat processing industry has suffered a nationwide shortage of USDA inspected meat processing facilities to butcher and process livestock into value-added products. These services are critical, as they are required for all livestock producers who want to sell their meat directly to consumers, at local farmers markets, or to restaurants, and or other wholesale buyers. Exacerbating this already existing issue, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in closures and slowed production in the largest meat processing plants in the U.S., causing substantial disruptions to the entire national meat supply chain. As a result, many livestock producers were unable to find processing alternatives for their meat and had to dispose of their livestock animals, resulting in substantial financial losses. Other livestock producers sought out local small to mid-sized meat processing facilities to process their meat, ultimately leading to a surge in demand that outpaced the capacity of these smaller meat processing facilities, leaving them booked for months. Country Butcher experienced these impacts firsthand. Country Butcher is the only facility in two California counties that provides required USDA inspected meat processing for livestock producers seeking to sell their meat in local markets. Having to turning away a vast amount of producers before the pandemic, Country Butcher’s capacity constraints were even further intensified during the height of COVID-19 with their processing schedule booked 10-12 months out. In order to meet overwhelming demand, Country Butcher needed to increase its meat processing capacity through acquiring the needed equipment and labor that could expand its services to accommodate more livestock producers and their meat products.
Country Butcher was referred to Morrison to inquire about the USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP); the purpose of this program is to develop, coordinate, and expand local intermediary businesses, like meat processors, to help increase access to and availability of locally produced agricultural products. This includes supporting the processing and storage of local food products that are marketed locally through funding costs for equipment and labor, among others. This referral was from a Morrison client that used our services to successfully apply for a LFPP grant a few years prior. Morrison strategized with Country Butcher to develop an LFPP application that would meet Country Butcher’s goals of increasing capacity and expanding their services to meet the overwhelming demand of local livestock producers to process their meat.
In November 2021, Country Butcher was awarded USDA LFPP grant funding of $500,000 for their efforts. Through the updated equipment and labor acquired through this funding, Country Butcher will be able to more than double their meat processing capacity, which will include expanded value-added processing, packaging, and storage services for local livestock producers. Value-added processing will be particularly meaningful to producers as they will be able to turn less desirable or tougher cuts of meat into more desirable popular products that can be sold at a higher margin. It is estimated that Country Butcher’s expanded services will serve an additional 40 local and regional livestock producers with benefits reaching across the Northern Californian meat supply chain.
About the client
Country Butcher is a meat processing business and butcher shop located in Olivehurst, California. Since 1979, Country Butcher has been in operation and is best known for its smokehouse, as well as its award-winning bacon, ham, and sausage. In 2016, the Knapp family purchased Country Butcher from its original owners and expanded its services to include USDA meat processing, wild game processing, and an expanded selection of high quality and unique retail and wholesale products. Some of Country Butcher’s accomplishments include receiving the “Wayne Hall Excellence in Curing Award” given by the California Association of Meat Processors. Country Butcher has received this award for overall best combined bacon, bone-in-ham, boneless ham, and smoked turkey for three years in a row. Additionally, at the California Cured Meat Championship in 2020, Country Butcher was also awarded for its various smoked and fresh sausages.