Amid the pandemic, Virginia meat sales are beefing up

Hanover County

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — While the coronavirus has hit many industries hard, for some Virginia farmers sales are beefing up.

“In the month of April, we sold a month’s worth of product on a Friday afternoon,” said CJ Isbell, co-owner of Keenbell Farm in Hanover County.

Isbell produces and sells grass-fed beef, pasture raised pork, chicken and eggs. Ever since the pandemic hit, local meat producers have seen more and more customers turning to them for their food.

“About 70 percent of those new sales comes from new customers,” Isbell told 8News.

So what’s beefing up sales?

“We saw a lot of food supply chain issues,” said Whitney Perkins, a commodity specialist with the Virginia Farm Bureau.

Perkins told 8News that COVID-19 led to uncertainty at the supermarket. Customers were sometimes met with empty shelves and decided to turn to their local farmer instead. Others have been worried about the spread of the coronavirus in big meat packing plants and want to know where their food is coming from.

Isbell says customers have told him, “They were concerned about sourcing of the food.”

Perkins said statewide there’s an overwhelming demand for local products. The Lulus Local Food Program, an online platform for local farmers to sell their products, has seen a huge spike in sales.

“Just year to date, we have seen a 650 percent increase in sales on that system,” she said.

While local meat farmers welcome the new business, meeting the demand can be struggle.

“It takes quite a long time for those products to reach maturity,” explained Perkins.

Isbell says there’s been back up in processing. Federal regulations require the processing of some meats off the farm. Farmers like Isbell usually plan and book for that one to three years in advance.

Still, Perkins says farmers are creative and will meet the challenge the best they can. She said, “Farmers are innovative and they will find a way.”

Keenbell Farm is hoping their new customers stick around even after the pandemic. It maybe a gamble for the farm but they are planning now and investing so they can increase their supply. Customers can buy their meats, eggs and grain at their store on the farm.

You can find more information about stock and store hours on their Facebook page. Small local grocers like Ellwood Thompson’s, Good Foods Grocery and Yellow Umbrella Provisions carry their products.

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