May 8, 2020

Meat Suppliers Step Up in Wisconsin

As large meat processing factories across the Midwest work to reopen, smaller operations in Wisconsin are working to meet the growing need.

Dan Ryan is the COO of Neesvig’s, which has a small processing facility based in Windsor. He said the business is based on connecting with local farmers to supply local retailers and restaurants.

When farmers couldn’t sell to their usual markets, Ryan said he wanted to find a way to help.

“Farmers right now as I’ve been told are really wrestling with issues where they’re contemplating the need to euthanize significant amounts of the hogs that are part of their farm,” he said.

Through a partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Ryan was able to offer a solution. Another locally-owned processor People’s Meat Market of Steven’s Point would take care of the first step, serving as a slaughterhouse for Wisconsin hog farmers.

“They’re doing maybe 20 to 25 times what they would normally be doing,” Ryan said.

From there Neesvig’s takes over to turn that meat into the cuts you’d find at the grocery store.

“We go out there and kind of redistribute and sometimes manufacture and redistribute product to restaurants, retailers and everyone else,” Ryan said.

That process ensures Wisconsin-produced meat won’t go to waste and will make it to grocery store shelves. From there grocers like Tim Metcalfe said shoppers need to do their part.

“Don’t take more than what you need because that’s going to create problems for the system,” he said.

The Metcalfe’s owner and president said as of Friday, there’s enough meat in Madison stores for everyone who wants it, but shoppers may not see their usual brands.

“We’ll always have chicken. We’ll always have pork. We’ll always have beef,” he said.

Metcalfe said shoppers should only buy what they need for one to two weeks. He said panic buying won’t help anyone.

As for the cost to consumers, he said some prices have gone up slightly due to price increases from suppliers, but he expects prices to stabilize in a few weeks as processors reopen.