October 25, 2021

More consumers buying local

Meat producers in area report seeing growth in sales

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Greater Cortland area meat producers report an increase in sales since the coronavirus pandemic. Across the nation, at least 10 industrial meat producing facilities have shut down because of COVID-19, a problem local facilities have not seen.

Across the greater Cortland area, meat producers, in particular beef producers, are seeing an uptick in sales as people look to local producers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“More customers are coming to the farm store,” said Eileen Scheffler, owner of Scheffler Farm in Groton.

“I think the option of isolated shopping is attractive to people. We have fewer customers than other people so the chances of running into people is smaller.”

She also said some people have told her they’re buying local because they can’t find products in grocery stores.

At least 10 meat processing plants, including three in Canada, have closed because of the virus, Reuters reports.

Most recently, Smithfield Foods closed one of its largest pork-processing plants in South Dakota due to an outbreak of the virus at the facility, causing concerns about the nation’s meat supply chain.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, Smithfield’s president and CEO. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”

Maureen Knapp, an owner of Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, said the farm has sold out of beef, but should have both beef and pork available at the end of the month.

The farm, which primarily produces dairy, also sells organic chicken, turkey and beef, as well as organically raised pork.

“Business has been wonderful,” she said.

Joanne Jones, of CNY Beef in Homer, said they, too, have seen an uptick in people coming to the farm for beef.

“We cannot keep beef in stock,” she said. “We are selling probably three or four times the amount of beef we would typically sell, and I think I could sell more except the local slaughterhouses are full.”

Jones also said some beef processors like JBS, one of the largest in the country, are buying cattle at a cheaper price, although she’s not exactly sure why, because demand isn’t low.

“Clearly the big processors are making some huge money,” she said. However, Knapp said there is also a bottleneck in the industry locally that has been going on for quite some time. As an organic meat producer, she can only go through certain processing facilities and must schedule times to drop off animals well in advance.

“What happens now kind of acknowledges the fragility of our food system,” Knapp said. “Hopefully it will make people realize shopping locally and keeping their food dollars here in the community benefits the community, as well as benefiting the smaller farms that are struggling.”

Albany Times Union contributed to this report.