The last couple of months have been an interesting time for Spilchuk Meats.
The long-time business, which operates north of Estevan, specializes in custom processing of a variety of meats, including livestock and wildlife. Farmers and others bring their animals in, getting it processed and taking the meat home.
They’ve had to adapt to not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the temporary closure of the Cargill Meat Packing Plant in High River, Alta.
Spilchuk Meats owner Sheldon Spilchuk said the end result will be a longer wait list, likely growing from about two months that they normally have for customers to be able to drop off beef to about six months, which was also the wait list following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis of 2003.
But customers have been patient.
“You have the odd guy that’s mad and upset, and tries to take it somewhere else, but I’ve been here since 1996 and my customers … work with me,” said Spilchuk.
Most of the people he deals with are local producers. There have been phone calls for cheap hamburger and cuts, but that’s been normal for about five years.
Spilchuk said the troubles at the Cargill plant will have a greater impact on the customers at the grocery store than on him. He also hopes that the public won’t expect cattle farmers to give away their beef for nothing, and he reminds them that while people might have to pay more for beef, it’s not the cattle farmers who are seeing the benefit.
“There’s lots of people always looking for cheap meat, and it’s like asking somebody to take a cut in their wage or sell their product for less.”
Feed lots are also going to feel the pinch, he said, as they have animals in the yard longer if they can’t be taken in to be processed.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Spilchuk Meats to shut down the catering end of their business, A Little Taste of Heaven, since they deal with large events, fundraisers, weddings, anniversaries and more that have been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the meat shop, all that matters how they deal with customers as they’re coming up, picking up items, dropping off meat and more, social distancing and wiping things down and social distancing.