THREE OAKS — “Where’s the beef?” has become a complicated, and oft-asked, question during the coronavirus pandemic.
Higher prices and shortages of certain cuts at restaurants and stores reflect a situation that’s also affecting those who raise livestock.
Linda Kaminski of Kaminski Farms in Three Oaks said the meat processors (including the one they use, Pease Packing Corp. in Scotts, Mich.) have been “overbooked and overworked” due to the coronavirus situation which has left most with limited work crews. And she said another area processor went out of business this year.
“The demand is definitely there,” she noted, adding that they are sold out well into the fall for halves and quarters of beef.
She said some of the family run small processors are helping out their peers with their backlogs, and others have elected to stay at home, so things are backed up all over the area.
There’s no shortage of cattle on the Kaminski farm. Linda said there are about 200 head of growing cattle (in varying sizes).
Bob Schuttler of Middlebrook Farm south of Three Oaks said he got out of the beef farming business to retire and travel more before the coronavirus hit, and has reduced the farm’s herd of grass-fed Aberdeen angus down to a small size for the family. He added that they don’t plan to have any animals processed this year.
“What’s interesting is we’ve been getting a lot more calls from people looking for animals to start herds … (or) increase their herd size,” he said.
Schuttler said there also has been a recent increase in calls from people looking to buy beef products.
“If we were still in the business of selling meat we’d be extremely busy right now,” he said.
Linda said the Kaminski Farms retail meat store at 16682 Schwark Road in Three Oaks was sold out of “just about everything” even before the Memorial Day holiday.
“We had hamburger and brats for Memorial Day weekend,” she said (there also were some pork products and chicken breasts).
As of May 29, however, the freezers were full.
“The processor did two beef for us, we’ve got two more hanging so in a couple weeks we’ll … be good to go,” Linda said.
She said they are putting limits on quantities customers can purchase and asking everybody to consider the needs of others.
The COVID-19 situation also has the potential to impact Linda Kaminski’s grandchildren — Josh and James Kaminski and Wyatt and Wade Mann (and all the other area residents) — who normally show animals at the Berrien County Youth Fair.
For information on the 2020 Youth Fair, see article in the News section of this website.
Leslie Kaminski said this is her son Josh’s second-to-last year fair eligibility. He is slated to take both beef and swine this summer.
His younger brother, 11-year-old James Kaminski is raising a cross-bred steer for the carcass class which involves the animal to be judged before and after processing by a USDA-approved facility prior to fair week.
He also plans to take pigs to the fairgrounds.
Katy Mann said her sons Wyatt (11) and Wade (7) also are slated to show multiple animals at the fairgrounds.
“It’s a good experience for the kids,” she said, adding that she showed from when she was 5 years old to 19.
On a recent afternoon both boys were working with their animals at the family farm near Galien.
Wade has two pigs (single-market barrows named “Chewie” and “Phillippe”) he’s planning on taking to the fair. He said they’re fun to work with noting that Chewie got his name from chewing on everything — including wheelbarrows and his shoes when he’s within range.
Wyatt is raising a turkey for showing.
Each also has a calf bound for the fairgrounds in Berrien Springs.
Last year (Wade’s first showing at the fair) he took a pig and a heifer.
Wyatt has been showing since he was 6 years old. In 2019 he showed a pig and a cow.
This year is the first time turkeys have been in the mix.
“They grow very, very, very fast,” Katy said.
“You leave them for two days and then they’re ginormous.” Wyatt added.