custom-butcher-1.jpg (copy)

Louis Martin inspects carcasses at Martin's Custom Butchering in New Holland, Pennsylvania. His is one of many meat processors in Lancaster County that serve direct-marketing farmers.

Though COVID-19 has lately been disrupting production at major Western meatpackers, Pennsylvania’s meat processors remain in operation.

“They’re all up and running,” Greg Hostetter, a deputy state ag secretary, said in a May 7 industry call.

Pennsylvania packers had their share of problems earlier in the pandemic. At least four closed temporarily because of worker illness, and plants struggled to get protective equipment for workers during the initial rush.

But Hostetter said plants adjusted quickly, and state officials visited the facilities to advise on ways to safeguard worker health, such as installing dividers where spacing out workers was difficult.

The shutdowns in Pennsylvania did cause some on-farm backlogs of animals that were scheduled for slaughter, but the problems never reached the scale seen recently at the giant Western plants, Hostetter said.

In some cases, these backlogs have led to on-farm depopulation.

The state Ag Department is close to sending out guidance to packers on writing worker health protocols requested by USDA. Such procedures are reminiscent of the biosecurity plans used by chicken and pork producers, Hostetter said.


The W. Atlee Burpee Co., affectionately known as “Burpee seeds” to millions of American gardeners, is the nation’s largest home seed and plant company and was founded in Philadelphia in 1876, at the time of the Centennial Exposition shortly after the end of the Civil War. Read more