MAXWELL, Ind. – As many Hoosiers combat inflation while they stock up on groceries for the holidays, many Indiana farmers are experiencing some challenges as well.
Hoosier farmers are experiencing long waits to get their meats processed. It is an issue that stems back to the start of the pandemic.
You may recall bare shelves at the beginning of the pandemic. While farmers say there never was a shortage of meat, there has been a continued struggle to get meat processed.
“When everything shut down with COVID, everybody started to realize they needed to secure their own food sources because it wasn’t readily available in grocery stores,” said Crystal Palmieri with Maxwell Meats.
But that isn’t the only reason.
“Everyone has a desire to eat local now,” Palmieri said. “They all want to know what’s in their food, where their food comes from. So people are more conscious of that than they have been in previous years.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Indiana farmers say they have been busier than ever before.
“A lot of people went straight to the farmer, which helps the farmer and helps the local economy a little bit better,” said Indiana farmer Duane Plumber. “People are realizing they need to secure their food sources. It sure has. I think it’s been a boom for us.”
Plumber has around 18 cattle right now. With the increased demand for meats and all of the struggles brought on by the pandemic, he said it takes much longer to get his herd into processing facilities these days.
“It used to be three or four years ago we could normally call locker plant or a processing center, you could get in within a month or a month and a half,” he said. “Now it’s six months to a year out.”
This makes it difficult to plan out the year, Plumber said.
“It’s kind of hard to guess because you’ve got cattle that you were trying to raise to get to a proper weight. Plus, you’re trying to sell it. So, it’s kind of a guessing game on how far out you need to book it.”
Plumber said he has to take his cattle to several different processing plants across the state just to get them in.
“Right now, we are going to five different locker plants to fill all of the needs,” he said.
Plumber said the cost of cattle has risen 15-20% in the last couple of years and the cost of feed has also risen. This of course has a bit of an impact on the consumer as well.
Farmers agree more processing centers would help the issue a bit. That’s why Maxwell Meats in Maxwell, Indiana opened up in the fall.
“We have two investors, and one of them is a farmer, and he realized he was raising beef and it was taking him years, sometimes 36 months to get his animals in for process,” Palmieri said. “He knew a butcher and they came together and decided we’re going to open a processing facility for local farmers.”
Maxwell Meats has been steadily busy since opening in August. The shop hopes to help reduce wait times for local farmers.
“We’ve been fairly steady since we opened,” Palmieri said. “Our goal is to do 20 beef a week and 40 hogs. Currently we’re a month out, which is a lot better than a lot of facilities at 18 months.”
Maxwell Meats processes a variety of animals, including beef, hogs, deer, and lamb.
When it comes to saving money, Plumber said it can actually be cheaper to buy meats like beef in bulk than buying individual cuts at a retailer throughout the year. He said many Hoosiers purchase a quarter or half of a cow and freeze the meat.
“It figures to be a lot cheaper in the long run,” he said.