Redwood Gazette: Aspiring meatpreneurs gather

Can ambitious rural Minnesotans bring in new people to revitalize the tradition of local butcher shops and meat processing lockers in Minnesota?

Judging from the experience new local meat processors shared at a Minnesota Farmers Union Bottleneck Project workshop, the answer is a qualified yes. A 2022 report, Meat Processing Bottlenecks, found that 33 percent of existing meat processors and meat lockers are without a fully developed succession plan. For the small to mid-sized livestock farmers who rely on these businesses, losing one-third of the state’s butcher shops and meat lockers threatens their livelihood and by extension, the prosperity of rural communities.

“We’re working on promoting resiliency in greater Minnesota’s small local meat lockers,” said Bottleneck Project organizer Paul Sobocinski of Wabasso. “It’s important to local communities and it allows farmers the option through direct marketing to increase their bottom line while providing meat to their local communities.” The Bottleneck Project was developed with the support of the Minnesota Farmers Union, University of Minnesota Rural Sustainable Development Program and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to support family farmers and the local food economy in rural Minnesota. The event held April 20 at St. Mary’s Church in Willmar is a continuation of that work.