Where's the (Michigan) Beef? Not to Mention Pork & Poultry!

May 7, 2020

Where's the (Michigan) Beef? Not to Mention Pork & Poultry?

How Michigan Farm to Family Is Adapting to Meet the Needs of Our Valued Customers

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the supply chain issues throughout the country. Some of the products and food staples that many of us depend on have become challenging to find. The meat supply is one of those sectors that has been affected. As you know, at Michigan Farm to Family, we focus our efforts on working with Michigan farmers and Michigan processors. However, it's becoming impossible to source the amount of meat we need from farms only in Michigan. We thought we would be immune to these kinds of supply chain challenges, but unfortunately, they are touching us as well.

There are a couple of main factors that have affected our local sourcing. First, some employees at the small processing facilities we use have needed to leave work to stay home with their own families. Also, in some cases, there have been Covid outbreakds, causing these facilities to reduce their capaticty, or close down entirely. Some of the larger packing houses have closed down as well. Because people are panic buying and hoarding meat, the demand for what the processors do has far outstripped their capacity, even if they were working with their full crew. What this all means for us is that packing houses are rationing out processing time to all their customers. This results in us getting less local Michigan beef and pork than we've been able to procure in the past. 

What's Going On with Grass Fed Beef

But never fear, we are adapting and finding new ways to offer wholesome meat to our valued customers. We have sourced out what we think are the two best 100% grass fed and grass finished beef outfits as close to home as possible. Thousand Hills and Strauss are based in Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively, and they both produce absolutely wonderful 100% grass fed beef. While the cuts that we will get from them will not be as extensive as what we've been able to provide from our local processors, we should have plenty of ground beef, New York strips, ribeye, sirloins, and a couple of other cuts.

Unfortunately, this means that our prices will have to go up slightly. When we go local, we are working directly with the farmer and the processor and there really is no middle man, so to speak. Now we are buying from a middleman. Additionally, we are at the mercy of the law of supply and demand. In fact, there's so much demand for what beef there is available, that we are seeing bidding wars going on. However, we are grateful that we're able to get a very good supply of 100% grass fed beef and I don't see any issue with the supply on the basic grinds and cuts. As for the slight increase in price, we promise to bring that down once the supply catches up to the demand.

Additionally, we have been able to source from a small USDA certified and inspected processor in the thumb area. This processor does a paper wrap instead of Cryovacking. Though the packaging will look different, it will still arrive frozen, and many meat aficionados claim that paper-wrapped meat results in a better taste than Cryovac. I plan to test that out myself! 

What's Going On with Organic Beef

As far as organic beef goes, that is a different story. The certified organic processor based in west Michigan has just notified us that they're shutting down for the next two weeks, because of Covid related illnesses. While we have a good supply of certified organic ground beef on hand, we are in very short supply of the other cuts. We have recently been able to secure a spot on the schedule of a small organic processor in the thumb area for every other week beginning June 21, so we should have good supplies of organic beef beginning the first week of July. In the meantime, feel free to order the 100% grass fed, it's delicious and full of health benefits as well, and we have a pretty good supply of that on hand.

What's Going On with Pork

With regard to pork, we have had a long-standing relationship with Yoder Family Farm in Homer, Michigan, and are processing three hogs per week right now from Yoder in Union City. We actually have a fairly good supply of Yoder products right now, and we're picking up more this week. But like the other processing facilities, this one in Union City is at capacity, and they will not be able to process for us for the next three weeks. After that, we are on their schedule for an every-week process through the end of the year. Please continue to check our availability of Yoder heritage pork products. Additionally, we just brought on the Jake's Country Meats pork line from Cassopolis, Michigan. You can find more information about this farm and products on our website.

What's Going On with Poultry

Poultry presents its own set of challenges. Miller Poultry, which works with small family farms on both sides of the Michigan-Indiana border, has been our mainstay for certified organic chicken that is reasonably priced. But alas, the news from Miller is not all good. As you know we've had a very difficult time getting boneless skinless breasts (I'm encouraging everyone to switch over to bone-in, skin-on thighs, they are yummy!) and we just heard yesterday that they too are closing down temporarily. We do have a previous order that should arrive this morning, and we will update our inventory when it comes in.

Though small farms and small poultry processors are more expensive than factory farms, we love the small-farm quality and the way their chickens are raised. Gunthorp Farm in northern Indiana has been our go-to small farm processor for years. They raise the birds and process them right there on their farm. Greg Gunthorp has been at this for a while, and he is nothing short of a local food hero. Like the other small processors, the demand for his food has skyrocketed in recent weeks. Fortunately, we have a decent supply of inventory on hand now and we are going to be picking up more this week.

Since we don't know how long Miller will be closed, we reached out to our friends in the business and we've been able to source Smart Chicken, which is a very good certified organic chicken operation based in Nebraska. While it's not as local as Miller is to us, it's every bit as good as Miller, and some even think it's better. We will get that up on our website right away, as our first shipment will arrive on Tuesday next week. Therefore, for a while we will have both organic Smart Chicken and organic Miller, and we will keep you posted on the status of Miller's closure and plans to reopen.

I hope this letter helps explain the ways Michigan Farm to Family is adapting during this pandemic to meet the needs of our valued customers. We continually strive to offer healthy, wholesome meats raised in humane and sustainable conditions. If that means we need to reach out further than our Michigan borders during these unusual times, then we are happy to do so, in order to help you feed your family in the best way possible. Wishing you all safety and health!


Bill Taylor
(Chief Foraging Officer

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