Hunters may have to search for meat processors this fall. Finding a meat processor this fall may be more difficult than in the past. Many meat processors are slammed with livestock producers who have had to search for more local processing facilities. This unfortunately may leave hunters on the outside looking in.

COVID-19 and Meat Processing

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many large livestock processing plants had to be shut down. With fewer facilities to slaughter and process livestock, ranchers had to turn to local processors this spring. Most smaller operations were overwhelmed fairly quickly. Consequently, the smaller processors have been delayed for months.

In places like Montana, the Montana Food Bank said members of the Montana Cattleman’s Association told them that butchers were telling ranchers that the wait for processing may be six months to a year. Consequently, Montana has offered $12 million in grants to smaller meat processors to improve their operations. Bad news for hunters and ranchers is good news for butchers. Certain processors within the state are taking wild game by appointment only.

“Even with that it will be very limited what we can take in. This is a crazy year. We don’t want to blow them off. “It’s going to be one of the better years for us in the last 20 years.” -Chad Carpenter Western Meat and Sausage Block in Butte

Chad Carpenter also said that He could have turned away all wild game since his shop is so busy. But this year’s unusual surge in beef processing could be short-term so he didn’t want to deny all hunters.

Finding a Meat Processor

Many states are recommending hunters start contacting butchers before the hunts start. You will want to make sure processors can take in your wild game before its sitting in the cooler in your truck. Numerous states also reminded hunters to contact their various wildlife agencies about donating their wild game meat.

There is no better time than now to learn to process your own game. Many outdoor and sporting good stores offer a wide array of processing tools and gear. While the initial expense can be a bit large you will be saving money in the future and you won’t be at the mercy of busy meat processors.

What are your thoughts on hunters having to search for meat processors this fall? Have you had trouble finding a butcher? Do you process your own wild game? Let us know in the comments!

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