UMN Extension creates infographics to guide bulk meat buyers

Experts suggested that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, issues within meat processing plants led many consumers to rely on other local means for meat purchases.

Courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension

Courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension

Natalie Cierzan

The University of Minnesota Extension created informative visuals for consumers buying meat in bulk.

The infographics, which were posted last month, have garnered thousands of engagements on the Extension’s beef and swine teams’ Facebook pages. The graphics show consumers how much meat each animal produces, how much space is needed to store it and any expected costs. More consumers have been buying meat in bulk due to the pandemic, researchers said. 

Extension conducts research and outreach with the University’s partners.

Travis Hoffman, a North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota Extension sheep specialist, helped create the infographics for sheep and goats. The graphics are available for a variety of animals, including cows and pigs as well.

Hoffman said the infographics were created to increase transparency between livestock producers and meat consumers.

“If individuals so choose to either harvest their own animal or to purchase them directly from a producer, there is an opportunity for education to learn where cuts come from and how much one can expect to [hold in] their freezer,” he said.

Michelle Kettler, a superintendent for her county fair in Michigan, said she had to start thinking of other options for selling her animals once the fair was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Her daughters typically show animals and livestock at the fair. Now she said her daughters are using the infographics in informational packets for those interested in buying their hogs. 

“I really liked the information. I liked it being usable and understandable for the layman person who doesn’t really know a lot,” she said. “People aren’t going to take the time to read. I like the fact it was more of a visual.”

Experts suggested that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, issues within meat processing plants led many consumers to rely on other means for meat purchases, including their local butchers.

“We see with COVID just the issues with difficulties in the supply chain. For a while there, our grocery stores are still empty of toilet paper, disinfectants, soaps — but there [were] concerns, especially with the outbreaks that were occurring at the processing plants, that there’d be a lack of meat,” said Jeff Bender, the director for the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center in Minneapolis.

Meat production has decreased, he said, as processing plants put out only about half of the product they usually do.

Retail markets have experienced less available protein and meat, Hoffman said, which was primarily due to a limited slaughter capacity within the facilities for the past three months.

“People were trying to identify maybe a cheaper or more economical way to get bulk amounts of meat because they were getting bulk toilet paper and bulk hand sanitizer,” he said.

Hoffman said while the price for purchasing from a local meat producer may seem larger in comparison to a grocery store, it may be cheaper in the long run.