Hunters Short on Processing Options

Deer hunters across the state may have trouble finding a local butcher to process their deer this fall because many of them are booked up for weeks or even months.

The situation is a byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic.

More ranchers turned to small and medium-sized meat processors after the virus forced many major meatpacking plants to shut down temporarily or reduce production in the spring, and backlogs developed in the system.

So this fall, Burkhart Meats is unable to process deer at its shop in Kinsley for the first time in 50 years.

Smoky River Meats in Salina is also turning away deer hunters.

Those butchers say they are booked up through January 2022.

The executive director of the American Association of Meat Processors, Chris Young, said the problem is widespread nationwide.

He said part of the issue is that wild game carcasses must be stored separately from beef, hogs, and lamb, and many processors don’t have room to store them.