With a free pork distribution at Yankton High School (YHS) Tuesday, the South Dakota Pork Producers Council (SD PPC) was able to help farmers and consumers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SD PPC took 60 pigs donated by farmers and had them processed into ground pork and chops at the South Dakota State University (SDSU) meat lab, which yielded nearly 5 tons of ground pork and chops. Each vehicle at Tuesday’s distribution received one 15-pound box of meat out of the 600 boxes that the group brought to the site.
Attendees were asked to begin lining up for the drive-through giveaway in the YHS parking lot an hour before the event. Within 30 minutes, the lot was filled to capacity and police, who were managing traffic at the entrance, began turning people away.
Along with the meat, the boxes contained instructions and recipes, as well as a list of local donors who helped fund the event.
The idea for the distribution came out of some of the hardships that pork producers have been facing during the current global pandemic.
“As COVID hit and people were starting to lose jobs and be furloughed, our producers also ran into issues with plants being shut down and having nowhere for their livestock to be harvested,” Stacey Sorlien, director of programs and communication for SD PPC, told the Press & Dakotan. “For all these communities going through COVID, everything’s changing; kids are at home more and cooking has become a huge burden on some of these families.”
Recently, as meat-processing plants shut down around the country due to localized COVID-19 outbreaks, hog farmers reportedly slaughtered and disposed of many of their animals. Meanwhile, due to the limited meat supply, the price of meat at the supermarkets rose, putting pressure on family budgets that were already stretched.
The SD PPC event addressed both issues by helping South Dakota farmers ensure their meat did not go to waste and by getting it to families that might be struggling financially because of the situation with the virus, she said.
“Being able to give them a healthy protein to put on their tables is definitely what our producers pride themselves on,” Sorlien said.
The group has hosted similar events across the state in efforts to help farmers and communities through this difficult time.
Local businesses and individuals contacted about the distribution made donations to cover meat processing and transportation costs.
“The South Dakota Pork Producers got ahold of us,” said Carmen Schramm, executive director of the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce. “They had done one in Aberdeen and they wanted to do one in Yankton.
“In Aberdeen, they collected dollars to be able to kind of pay it forward to the next community, and that was us. Then, they collected money for here so they can take it somewhere else.”
Event donors included: SD PPC, SDSU meat Lab, Pipestone Systems, Agriswine Alliance, Upland Colony, Oaklane Colony, Rustic Colony, Wolf Creek Colony, First Dakota National Bank, FNBO, CorTrust Bank, Explorer Credit Union, Farm Credit Services of America, J&R Feeds — Nick Weydert, Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce, Yankton High School and the Yankton Police Department.
“We’ve been doing it through some of the different towns and we are trying to spread it out though the state,” Craig Andersen, SD PPC president, told the Press & Dakotan. “There are a lot of people struggling and that’s one of the things that we looked at. We don’t want to do other things with the pigs. We would rather harvest them for a protein source for everybody, especially when everybody is struggling.
“We’re just glad that we can do something like this.”