Meat markets under pressure during hunting season

Your steak might take longer to get to your plate. A nationwide shortage of labor is hitting the meat processing industry.
Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST
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NICOLLET, Minn. (KEYC) - Your steak might take longer to get to your plate. A nationwide shortage of labor is hitting the meat processing industry.

“So, it’s getting to be a little more challenging for hunters to find places that will take it and that can turn it around relatively quickly,” said Ryan Schmidt, Owner of Schmidts Meat Market in Nicollet.

For many trying to find a place to handle their deer and other wild game, the labor might cause things to take longer getting those cuts back.

Between November and December, Schmidts Meat Market handles between 170,000 lbs. to 180,000 lbs. of wild game.

With fewer people, it takes longer to process.

“It’s been a challenge for the last year,” explained Schmidt. “You just can’t find anybody especially skilled labor the meat cutters, the sausage makers, you know, you just can’t hire somebody off the street that has no experience and expect him to be able to step right in and do that job”

That’s where Ridgewater College in Hutchinson and Wilmar come in.

They offer a semester-long program, Connecting students to butchers, with online schooling and in-person apprenticeships.

“I have calls left and right from from meat markets large and small saying ‘hey, if you have a student, I’ll give him a job,’” said Sophia Thomas, Meat Cutting Instructor at Ridgewater College. “We’re providing local butchers or local meat cutters to like local communities nationwide.”

Thomas said this is an industry for anybody -- with no age requirements. However, a passion and drive for meat is required to make the grade.

Schmidts says you need a keen eye for cutting meats, especially products like steaks, chops, and roasts.

“Yeah, I mean, if you’ve been hunting for years and, you know, you’ve done your own animals -- I mean that’s that’s kind of the basics you can get done,” said Schmidt. “But, you know, translating that into a position like we hire, where you’re doing it on different animals, and it’s all about speed and efficiency -- you know, those guys aren’t necessarily real trained professionals, that have gone to schools that teach people how to do the meat-cutting.”

Until there’s a boon from programs producing graduates with a certificate in meat cutting, local butchers will be busy getting those specialty cuts on plates.