Another COVID-19 ripple effect: Many meat processors booked up through deer season
Dawn Gens processes beef cuts at George's City Meats in Nicollet, Minn. on Tuesday. She's uncertain about what deer hunting season will look like this year — and how much her business will be able to take on as a result.  

The coronavirus pandemic is intruding on yet another Minnesota tradition: deer season.

In just over two weeks, Minnesota’s archery deer season is scheduled to begin. And as preparations for the fall hunting season ramp up, some local butchers and meat markets, which often spend their autumns processing deer into venison, might have to turn their game customers away. 

Many processors are already operating at full capacity — a ripple effect of COVID-19 closures at major pork and beef processors this spring.

George’s City Meats in Nicollet, Minn., has been around for more than four decades. During all those years in the meat processing business, Angie Langel said, the family-run shop has never experienced the type of demand they have this summer. 

They’re working nonstop, said Langel, a granddaughter of founder George Poehler, who helps run the shop. And there’s no sign of slowing. They’ve got hogs and cattle scheduled to be processed well into next year.

“It’s a little overwhelming to think that a year from now we’re already having animals booked,” she said. “That’s a little scary to think of it that way. If something happens, then what do we do? It’s nice to know we have a steady income and we have plenty of customers coming in. But it’s also really overwhelming.”

So as the staff at George’s works through on their glut of orders this summer, deer season is on the back of their minds. Dawn Gens, Poehler’s daughter, who also helps run and works at the shop, said she’s taking things day by day. 

Usually, by fall, they’re able to pivot some of their production toward venison as hunting season kicks into high gear. This year, she’s not so sure.