Local meat lockers can't keep up with pork processing demand

When coronavirus outbreaks closed down two of the region’s largest pork processors, private consumers turned to local meat lockers to butcher free market hogs.

The sudden demand for service overwhelmed small processors like Jim Susie and Brad Schoneman of S & S Locker Service in Hills.

They’re now booked into September, too late to process a 250- to 300-pound market hog that’s ready for butchering today.

Phone calls to the locker have increased with news that thousands of market hogs would have nowhere to go when Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls and JBS in Worthington closed last month. 

Producers are giving away or drastically discounting live market hogs for people to process on their own.

Many turned to the S & S Locker and other local meat lockers.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Susie said. “We’ve been getting 30 to 40 calls a day.”

The locker is busier than ever.

For efficiency, Susie said the locker schedules processing by the day and by the species. In one day they can process four to five head of cattle followed by the next day with 12 head of hogs. This is about as many as five workers can keep up with safely in the small locker at one time.

“We are doing as much as we can,” Susie said. “Everyone wants us to get bigger and process more.”

The current demand has meant long processing days for Susie and Schoneman as well as completing orders seven days a week.

Susie said he finds himself frequently telling callers and those stopping at the retail counter one important message: There is no meat shortage.

“I get tons of people coming across the border from Sioux Falls,” he said.

Within two days the locker sold the 200 pounds of hamburger it had available for retail.

With no place for their market hogs to go, local producers have turned to euthanizing the farm animals and disposing of the carcasses.

“They don’t want to do it, but what else can they do?” Susie said.

(See the related story about Klarenbeek Rendering’s role in the crisis.)

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