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USDA Wants to Build Small-scale Meat Processors In Iowa

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River to River airs weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News, and is available as a podcast most days by 5 p.m.

While Iowa's small-scale hog farmers need meat processing services, they are increasingly finding it hard to get access to slaughterhouses. USDA wants to build "resiliency" in the sector, but will it work?

DaQuay Campbell was raising 14 pigs near Tipton, Iowa when he ran into a problem.

When Campbell gets a pig, it weighs around 50 pounds. That pig will be ready for slaughter in five to six months. But over the phone, he kept hearing from meat lockers saying that they were booked for years: 2022, 2023. And the longer he keeps the pigs, the more feed they consume cutting into his bottom line.

"It was a real challenge to actually find a locker. And once I finally did, the locker date that I got was much sooner than I intended. So, there's a bit of a loss of money there just because I'd rather do the pigs while they're a little bit smaller and I know I have a butcher date versus having, you know, 400-pound hogs eating everything," Campbell said.

More: Non-profit Proteus Inc. to offer healthcare to slaughterhouse workers.

Former Iowa Governor and current U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is hoping $655 million in loans and grants will help launch new meat-processing facilities to help compete with
Tyson, National Beef, Cargill and JBS, four major corporations that control the market.

More on USDA: USDA moves to feed millions of children over the summer.

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with two small producers and two small processors trying to meet that demand.

"Right now we basically make a locker date for a beef before it's born," said
Barney Bahrenfuse of B&B Farms. "And then you think, that's two years to get a beef to market."

Guests:

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Zachary Oren Smith is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River