The wait to butcher cattle at local meat lockers (and those all across the country) has increased
substantially since the start of the pandemic, which means cows are larger once they arrive to the lockers and lockers take longer to butcher them. And so, the cycle perpetuates itself.
Joe Allen, owner of Canton Lockers in Canton, said he normally butchers 10 beef a week during the summer. He’s currently processing 22 a week and is booked out until February of next
year. Mark’s Meat in Halstead is booked through June 2022 and Stroot Lockers in Goddard doesn’t
have openings until 2023. James Gaida, owner of Stroot Lockers in Goddard and Mulvane, said he is normally booked out three or maybe four months, with a decline and chance to catch his breath during the summer.
“I just don’t have the capacity to help all the people that want to get in, even some of my regulars,”
Gaida said. “I am taking on with more than I can handle and if I had the help and more space, I’d
be able to do, like, it would be insane how much we could do. We’re only limited in our space and the amount of employees I have.”
There seem to be two driving forces behind the longer waits. One, a lot more ranchers are selling direct to customers. As reported last week in the Harvey County Now, Sandhill Cattle alone sold over a hundred cows direct to customers, last year. According to the meat lockers, they aren’t the only ones changing their business strategy.
Allen said the increase started last year when feedlots shut down, beef became sparse and prices skyrocketed at grocery stores.
“Their (ranchers) phones probably rang off the hook from their friends and neighbors, ‘Hey, Walmart don’t have meat. Do you have any?’ And so they started booking beef with me and every locker in the country,” Allen said.
Gaida said that the Shop Kansas Farms Facebook page has connected customers who want to buy directly from the
farm instead of the grocery store and allowed the selling of beef directly in a better way.
“I think the biggest thing has been that Shop Kansas Farms Facebook page and now that
website has kind of changed the whole industry,” Gaida said.
The second driving force behind the long waits is the wait itself. Allen said the cattle keep eating and gaining weight while waiting to be butchered.
“We had customers that didn’t realize that the lockers were filling up and then when they finally called to book
their beef we were pretty out,” Allen said. “So now, these animals are pretty much bigger because they gain three
or four pounds every single day.”
He said that 50 years ago, someone might bring in a cow that might weight 500 pounds, but now, he is producing half beefs that are more than 500 pounds. Gaida said it depends on the rancher whether or not the longer waiting
time produces better quality in the final butchered product.
“The fatter it is the better flavor, but you do have a lot of waste, depending on the breed of cattle,” Gaida
said. “It’s probably better to feed them out for the guys that know what they’re doing, know how much to do and when to do it. Sometimes, you get ones that are just really, really fat, just a lot of waste and is real greasy hamburger.”
Gaida said that Stroot Lockers also butchers hogs and lamb. He shuts down the cattle butchering in December in
order to focus on deer. Stroot Lockers is located at 111 N. Main in Goddard. Their phone number is
316-794-8762. At Canton Lockers, located at 131 N. Main in Canton, Allen does primarily cattle all year
round. Their phone number is 620-628-4495.