CARES Act funding helped Indiana meat processing facilities adapt during the pandemic

Local and regional meat processing facilities had to adjust to the spike in demand caused by the pandemic

Roger Stahlhut is co-owner of Integrity Meats, which offers locally grown retail meat and custom processing, in northeast Indiana.

He says funding from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) allowed them to speed up production.

“We upgraded some of our equipment and bought some new equipment to increase production,” he says.  “Before the grant process we were doing 10-11 cattle a week and 10-11 hogs a week and we increased production with almost the same amount of people to process 15 beef cattle and 15 hogs.”

Audio: Roger Stahlhut

The ISDA was awarded $4 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, funding for the Indiana Meat Processing Expansion and Development Grant Program.

Integrity Meats utilized nearly $99,000 for new processing and packaging equipment including grinders and bacon slicers, expanded cooler areas, antimicrobial flooring, and more.  

Jeremy Lutter bought Heritage Meat Haus a year ago. He says coronavirus funding came at just the right time.

“The money was definitely nice when it was there and I think we put it to really good use,” he says. “It helped our employees out for safety, better work areas, more efficient, a nicer place to work for them.”

Audio: Jeremy Lutter

Heritage Meat Haus utilized nearly $113,000 for a tenderizer, smoke house, slicers, scales, wrapper station, bacteria resistant flooring, reach-in freezers and freezer doors, and more. 

ISDA Director Bruce Kettler says he is impressed with the meat processing facilities.

“They were working double and triple time to attempt to do what they could to keep up with the demand that they had and then if they wanted to access this program, it took a lot of work to be able to figure out how you’re going to apply for it and make this work,” he says.

Audio: Bruce Kettler

Kettler says $3.8 million of the CARES funding was awarded by the December cut off date, but because it was a matching program and recipients invested more into their businesses, an additional $5.9 million was invested.  

Indiana Meat Processing Expansion and Development Grant Program projects aimed to improve food supply resilience through increasing slaughter, expanding meat processing capacity, and promoting worker safety. Of the 60 applications received, 40 projects were approved and funded.

The ISDA toured Integrity Meats, Heritage Meat Haus, and Monon Meat Packing and Catering on Friday.

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