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Governors office awards grants to reduce local meat supply chain disruptions in Ohio

A rack of smoked bacon at a family owned meat processing plant in Darke County.
Alejandro Figueroa
A rack of smoked bacon at a family owned meat processing plant in Darke County.

Local food supply chains remain strained due to the pandemic, and meat processors in Ohio continue to see high demand.

The Ohio meat processing grant program was carved out of the state budget last summer to help reduce local supply chain disruptions. It pays for projects to expand capacity, upgrade equipment or cover training costs.

In January, the Ohio Department of Development — in partnership with the Ohio Department of Agriculture — processed and released the first round of $10 million in grants for meat processors in the state.

But with continuing supply chain challenges, Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R-OH) office recently set aside $15 million in grants to strengthen local meat supply chains – the second time it’s made that money available after the need for grants far exceeded the initial funding amount.

Doug Minter operates Fink Meat Company in Springfield, his company produces chuck roast, pork loins, smoked meats and lunch meats. He’s one of dozens across the state who received a grant this month. He plans to buy a new meat smoker and freezer coolers.

Minter said he typically wholesales meat to local restaurants or food trucks. But since the pandemic hit, he’s been selling more retail meat.

“The stores are still not able to fill the shelves,” Minter said. “People are having trouble finding products and I've had to outsource to different companies to get the products, because with the supply issues you have to buy more.”

That aligns with findings of a survey released by the Local and Regional Food Systems Response to Covid — a project led by the USDA along with several research universities and partners.

The survey, which was released last month, shows consumers are still buying more at-home food and buying more from farmers markets and specialty shops.

But Minter said, high demand and ongoing disrupted supply chains comes with added pressure to keep up with clients.

He added he’s had to raise prices since supplies cost more. This includes packing boxes costing $0.65 when it used to be $0.39 or added fees upwards of $300 on freight charges due to rising diesel prices. He said everything is getting more expensive, but he’s not worried for now.

“Instead of having $7, $6 sandwiches [at restaurants], you're seeing $10 sandwiches,” Minter said. “They [prices] always get passed on to the consumer, cause you gotta still make your same profit margins or you ain’t going to be here.”

State leaders said this grant will help meat processors ramp up productivity with the hopes that they can increase supply and lower costs for consumers.

“Ohio’s meat and poultry processors are a critical component of Ohio’s food and agriculture industry,” Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda said in a statement. “These funds will help our processors do a more efficient job at what they do best – provide safe and wholesome products for our consumers.”

Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming