Butcher Backlog: Local meat processors race to meet demand in midst of deer season

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. – Robert Anderson loves the thrill of the hunt, but finding a place to take his buck is becoming harder as the years go by, especially in 2020.

“They’re busy with hogs and cattle, and things that, you know, you traditionally raise around a farm so it’s just not a thing they do anymore,” observed Anderson, a deer hunter from Bentonville, Arkansas who stopped by Steve’s Trading Post to stock up on some ammo for the season.

Cloud’s in Carthage is one of the remaining meat processors that still handles deer, but even they have their limits.

“Kinda the bad thing this year, when we reach like what we did last year, about 1200 head, we will have to shut deer off because I’ve already got my beef and my pork customers booked and I can’t move them. There’s no where to move them to,” explained Mike Cloud.Limits

That’s because demand on butchers is at an all time high. Cloud’s is booked through January of 2022.

“I’ve never seen anything like it…I call it like toilet paper because everybody is wanting to book, everybody’s afraid they don’t have anything and, you know, not gonna have meat,” said Cloud.

The holiday season isn’t slowing anything down, and with so many of the major meat processing plants either closed or operating on a partial basis due to COVID-19, more customers are turning to their local butcher.Deer

“You know we normally sell some smoked turkeys. We don’t have time to make them and we can’t find them. We’re still gonna do some hams, but we’re changing what we do because we’re so busy with other stuff that we can only do so much,” Cloud explained.

Cloud says he expects things to get better in January, especially after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. He’s telling his customers to hold on and wait for openings in the meantime. For now, Anderson and others like him will likely be on the hunt for a butcher.

“Everybody’s afraid of the virus and a lot of people are worried about that CWD so there’s just a lot of organic dangers I guess in processing wild game right now,” said Anderson.

The Missouri Dept. of Conservation has suspended mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling requirements for hunters.