Deer hunters may need to sharpen their own knives to fill their freezers this year.  Local lockers and butcher shops are already backlogged and that issue is going to get exponentially worse when the first shots ring in deer season.

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The COVID-19 pandemic started a push for local meat in the spring and the butchers are still trying to catch up. Several large meatpacking plants were forced to shut down early in the pandemic when the virus swept through their operations. It caused consumers to rediscover their local meat lockers. It has been a booming business since, which has been great for local farmers and the butcher shops. However, the situation has been overwhelming.

Some area meat lockers have waiting lists that run several months. I’ve heard of some that are backlogged up to a year.

Our family always buys our livestock directly from a local farmer. Our hogs come from our nieces, who are building up their college funds. We buy a cow from another farmer we know. When I picked up the meat from our local processor a couple months ago, he was swamped. He had hired some kids as summer help to try to catch up on orders, but he has limited equipment and freezer space at his small operation. While the extra income is appreciated, he was frankly dreading deer season. It’s projected that the pandemic will bring out even more hunters than usual, so the gears will be grinding overtime for sure.

Some local lockers will be hiring temporary help to get them through the deer season rush. Some are only accepting deer meat that has already been taken off the bone for processing into sausage and jerky. Check with your local locker before bringing in your kill this year. It’s just another one of those strange side effects of the strange year of 2020.