UNDATED -- Business is booming for central Minnesota's small town meat markets.

Bob Petty, co-owner of Petty Brothers Meats in Annandale, says the coronavirus pandemic has turned what would normally be a slower season into a busy, and highly profitable one.

"The months of March and April are typically a slower time of year," Petty said. "I think that's pretty universal within the meat industry. So, it's been creating a lot of issues with supply. Everyone was kind of caught off guard. The bigger operations weren’t producing as much as they would be during busier times of the year. There was a lot of demand for product as people were looking to hoard and buy massive amounts of food, just trying to prepare for the whole thing. It created this huge spike in demand."

Over in Foley, Grand Champion Meats owner Kelly Gall-Washa refers to business as "absolutely crazy," with customers loading up on a variety of products.

“We're selling a lot of everything," said Gall-Washa. "It’s the weirdest thing. It’s all over the map. But primarily, beef, pork and chicken. Steaks, roasts, whole muscle pieces – those are the biggest sellers.”

Petty's customers are also buying meat in bulk, opting for less expensive products like pork chops, ground beef and chicken breasts.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of people trying to stock up on pork, related to plant outbreaks,” Petty said. “So, it’s good for business and revenue, but it’s been very stressful trying to meet the demand.”

"I can harvest on site when I need to," Gall-Washa said, with regard to supply issues. "We do butcher hogs and beef, and I have had to supplement when I can't get what I need. I've increased that, lately."

Both shops say there's been a spike in demand for meat processing services as well. Gall-Walla says Grand Champion is booked through the end of June for beef harvesting, and the end of the July for pork.

Grand Champion will reinstate normal store hours on Monday while continuing to offer curbside pickup and a storage freezer, accessible to customers 24-hours a day. Petty Brothers recently reopened their retail shop after struggling to keep up with the pace of business.

“Curbside was getting to be more than we could handle,” said Petty. “We were answering phones, putting together orders. So, we’ve reopened the store but we’re taking precautions to keep things as safe as possible for both our employees and our customers.”

Each store is currently operating with a full roster of employees, and Gall-Washa says she couldn't be more grateful for them.

"This is not a glamorous job," she said. "Especially the cutting and the harvesting. It's not a job you see younger generations getting into. I really thank them."

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