Smaller meat processors, small farmers step into the gap as the big plants struggle


Kristine M. Kierzek, Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

May 19, 2020


As meat processing facilities around the country have been ordered to stay open — including Smithfield in Cudahy and JBS in Brown County — they still face safety and health challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.


It affects employment, economy and our food chain. It has an impact on what’s on our table.


Consumers are turning to local farmers and butchers, wanting to know where their meats are coming from. They’re stocking up, concerned about rising prices and availability.


Farm to table is taking on new meaning, as consumers shift their shopping habits. Facing unexpected limits and lack of availability for some things, people are rethinking what they buy and where they shop.


Wisconsin has deep farming roots, and there are farmers raising meats in every area of the state. There’s no shortage of meats, necessarily. Consumers may just have to consider a different way of shopping and cooking.


All meat gets inspected


Buying direct from a farmer is always an option in Wisconsin, but there are a few things you need to know before you clear space in the freezer. (By the way, those are hard to find in stores these days, too, so plan accordingly.)


There are small and large meat processing plants across the state. All meat for sale in the state must be inspected, and that begins with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, which has 66 inspectors who handle processing in Wisconsin.


Meats that will cross state lines for interstate sales are inspected and processed at USDA facilities. To find information on processing, locations and regulations, go to or Farmers cannot sell meat without inspection.


“Our inspections of meat processors is unchanged,” said Kevin Hoffman, public information officer for the Division of Animal Health at DATCP. “In fact, we’re accommodating requests for increased inspection and waiving the overtime inspection fee on extended slaughter days.”


Farmers are finding small processors ...


Filling the food banks ...


Freezer space and shortages ...