Meat sales for local Fayetteville farm sky rocket during pandemic

Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 1:22 PM CDT
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FAYETTEVILLE, Tn. (WAFF) - First it was hand sanitizer, then toilet paper and now people are worried about meat staying on store shelves.

Many large meat processing plants have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 leading to those factories being shut down.

For some people, this is causing a concern as to where their food is coming from and leading them to find a different provider.

Pilaroc Farms in Fayetteville is a local meat producer that has seen food flying out of it’s freezers as new customers by the hundreds come calling.

“Every chance we get to pick up beef it’s gone the next day," said Jennie Patrick, her and her husband Walt started the business in 2016. They say this is the best it’s ever been.

Jennie first noticed things starting to change back in March.

“We always say if we ever sell out of hamburgers it’s because we’re going out of business or the world is coming to an end," she said. "We sold out of hamburgers that day and I knew things were going to get drastic.”

The world isn’t ending but the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including where some people want to get their food from.

“They found us online, they found us on facebook, just searching ‘where can I get local meat,'" Jennie said. "I would say 90% of our business in the first month was new customers.”

So, they transitioned from selling out of their “Meat Wagon” at farmer’s markets to doing contactless delivery.

“Customers appreciated the fact that they didn’t need to get out of their house," Jennie said. "We had a new mom, she had just had a baby boy and didn’t want to go out and source her meat.”

Jennie said people also feel more comfortable getting meat from them, than one of the large national food producers, because in their process, there are so many fewer people touching an animal in it’s lifetime

“When you’re dealing with a local farmer, there are a lot fewer hands who are touching that product," she said.

Jennie said people are also concerned about large meat processing plants being able to fulfill demand.

Walt said when these large processing plants close down this can lead to troubles for several months.

“Once you start seeing it scarcely on the shelves you’re already two processes behind and I think that’s what we are seeing and I think that’s what we will see in the future," he said.

They say that when these processing plants close, they waste product and put the process behind, leading to less meat in grocery stores.

“The pandemic, they say, is slowing down but there is a bottleneck of getting meat on the shelves and I think that’s going to go on for a couple of months, it’s not just going to stop tomorrow," Jennie said.

Jennie and Walt said this lag in being able to fill store shelves leads to people looking elsewhere for the meat they want.

“I think local producers like us are going to see that drive for meat well into the Summer months, maybe even into the fall," Jennie said.

The couple is happy for the business but said they recognize the important role these large meat producers play in feeding the entire country.

What might be the most important aspect for local farmers, like Jennie and Walt, is trust when it comes to important safety precautions.

“We’re wearing our masks and our gloves and gobs of hand sanitizer in the process, we want not only to protect our customers but we want to protect ourselves.”

She says at the end of the day, people trust what they’re feeding their families more when they know the family they are buying from.

But, just because business is booming doesn’t mean Pilaroc Farms isn’t running into problems.

Jennie said USDA inspected butcher facilities are all booked up for months sometimes, meaning they have to look far and wide for butchers they trust.

Walt said this is caused by the demand from local farmers like themselves, in addition to people deciding to turn different backyard farm animals into food.

“Just because we might have cattle or pigs or sheep ready to go to harvest doesn’t mean we can get a spot with our butchers," Jennie said.

This could possibly lead to a lack of product or a wasting product for some farmers, if they can’t get their animal to a USDA certified butcher at the right time.

So far, Jennie and Walt have not ran into that issue, but are feeling the pressure when it comes to refilling stock quickly.

“Where normally it would take us a month to get rid of a few steers worth of hamburger we sell out the second that we bring it in," Jennie said.

At this point, Jennie and Walt have a waiting list of people who want Pilaroc Farms meat, she said the best way to know when they’re restocked is to sign up for their newsletter.

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