With industrial meat hobbled, small producers are seeing a surge in sales. Can it last?

With industrial meat operations struggling to stay open, consumers are turning in droves to smaller producers to keep them in beef, pork, chicken and lamb, as Stephen R. Miller reports in FERN’s latest story, published with HuffPost. Miller’s story takes a close look at one operation, SkyPilot Farm in Longmont, Colorado, which is run by Chloe Johnson and her husband Craig Scariot. Since the outbreak, sales at SkyPilot have increased about 400 percent and the customer base has tripled.

“Inventory management is the hardest part,” Johnson said. “We were growing slowly and steadily over the years. Now we’re not able to keep up with demand.”

As Miller writes: “Although small-scale producers may have escaped the fallout of the shuttered commercial meat packing facilities, they are not immune to bottlenecks. Processing — butchering and packaging — meat requires a costly USDA license, and facilities that serve small operations like SkyPilot are lacking. In mid-April, Scariot’s local processor caught fire and shut down. Now he drives three hours to the nearest butcher he trusts with his lamb. The fact that processing infrastructure is built to serve producers who raise tens of thousands, not hundreds, of animals has hamstrung local ranchers for years.

“For Scariot and Johnson, the very things that make their operation inefficient — its limited output and environmental philosophy — are what make it so attractive. Especially during the unease of the pandemic, ‘people want good, healthy food and a connection with their producer,’ Scariot said. ‘And they don’t want to go into the grocery store,’ Johnson added.”