Meat packing and processing plants started warning us over two weeks ago about possible shortages in the meat distribution line. Maybe you've read many of the news stories about the problems that start compounding when nearly a dozen packing plants around the country have reported high cases of COVID-19 among their workers. This story in Bloomberg states the biggest issue:

“This is 100% a symptom of consolidation,” said Christopher Leonard, author of “The Meat Racket,” which examines the protein industry. “We don’t have a crisis of supply right now. We have a crisis in processing. And the virus is exposing the profound fragility that comes with this kind of consolidation.”

Long story short, farmers and meat producers have the food... we just can't get it to our tables very easily. Lot's of my Montana friends on social media have been urging the the return of local meat processing options. When I was kid growing up in small-town Iowa, every little town had a local butcher. Families would drop off their cow or pig or deer and come pick up a freezer full of meat in a couple of weeks. My family always butchered our own chickens every year as well. Do you know how the saying, "like a chicken running around with it's head cut-off" got started? I do.

We have plenty of chickens, cows and even pigs in Big Sky Country to feed Montana and it would be great to see a resurgence of local or regional butchers who can pack and sell their goods closer to home.

As of 5/5, here are local grocery stores that are limiting the amount of meat you can purchase per person/per visit.

  • Costco. As reported by KULR8, Costco is now temporarily limiting your fresh meat purchase to three items per member for beef, pork and poultry products. If you can only buy three, you'd better get the biggest package you can find.
  • Albertsons. I reached out to the Albertsons on 3137 Grand and the person I spoke with said they are limiting purchases to 10 pounds of meat per person/per visit. You can mix-n-match, but 10 lbs is the limit.
  • Walmart. When I called the West End location this morning (5/5) I was told at this time they are not limiting your purchase of fresh meat.
  • IGA. The representative at Reese and Ray's IGA in Laurel said they do not have purchase limits in place--yet--but from what I could gather it is probably a matter of time before they limit how much you can buy per visit.

Here are some other options for meat and seafood if you can't find what you are looking for elsewhere:

Billings Seafood Guys. Known for their delivery and subscription service, you can also find Billings Seafood Guys at their retail kiosk in Rimrock Mall, open from noon to 6 PM, Friday - Sunday. I follow these guys on their Facebook page, and every time I see one of their posts, I crave their super-fresh seafood. They have scallops, lobsters, jumbo shrimp, crab, salmon and more. Don't forget to make some clarified butter.

Seafoods of the World. Looking for the same quality seafood that many of our local restaurants use? Look no further than Seafoods of the World, located at 5800 Interstate Avenue. They're open Mon - Friday 10:30 to 5 PM and Saturdays 10 to 3. They're a wholesaler, but offer the same products to the general public at their warehouse storefront.

Ranch House Meat Company. It doesn't get any easier to support Montana meat producers than Ranch House Meat Company, at 3203 Henesta Drive (the former Sweetheart Bread outlet). They're open Mon - Friday 9 AM to 6 PM and Saturdays 9 to 4. I bought a prime rib from them over the holidays and it was fantastic. Check them out for locally sourced beef and pork as well as sausages, award-winning jerky and more.