SUNNYSIDE — With the infusion of Washington State Department of Agriculture’s $150,000 grant, a custom butcher business at 10 Maple Grove Road is helping unforeseen need in the Yakima Valley meat supply.

The WSDA Processor Infrastructure and Capacity Relief Grant funds are part of the larger federal CARES Act relief for small scale meat and poultry processors impacted by COVID-19, noted Jennifer Southwick, partner in the Sunnyside Meat Packers custom butcher shop.

Sunnyside Meat Packers has invested the funds in purchasing and outfitting a 4-wheel drive slaughter truck for on-site work, as well as other equipment needed for the work at the shop. “The grant will allow us to also get more coolers for beef processing,” Southwick said.

Southwick and her father, David Rand began working on establishing Sunnyside Meat Packers, as custom busher shop with retail sales businesses in April.

“We’d notice a year earlier that there was a need for more custom shops in the valley. Then the pandemic hit,” she declared.

When events like the Central Washington Junior Livestock Show and Sale was cancelled, Southwick got concerned about how 4-H Club kids were going to be able to get anything kind of a return on their pork and beef investment.

“Our kids needed their pigs butchered locally, but there were hold-ups as everyone had the same idea. The kids began selling their meat, online and to friends and family,” the longtime 4-H Leader commented.

The local butcher shops in the region were soon backed up as kids with their fair animals sought to find other ways to recoup their funds.

The need for another shop became apparent. “We had the property and a building at the Maple Grove site available, so Dad began converting his former glass shop into a meat shop,” she remarked.

The partners, which also included her daughter Hailey Schlosser and Back Yard Butcher of Yakima, opened a retail sale department in addition to cutting and wrapping. “We got our license in July and opened for business in September,” Southwick detailed.

“Dad heard about the CARES grant while on a job in the Puget Sound area. I looked into it. We applied and were successful,” she noted.

“Having the slaughter truck is going to greatly enhance the level of service we have given customers,” she added. She said the services also include curing and smoking meet in house.

The company’s slaughter truck can now travel to farms throughout the lower valley. “We have even been to Moses Lake to help shops in that area who have been overwhelmed with product,” she said.

She said the grant is to help small custom shops to improve their operating capacity in order to respond to pressures related to the COVID-19.

“We are already almost at capacity of what we can do,” Southwick admitted. “The word is getting out about us via social media, word of mouth, and the network of fair people and other meat shops,” she said.

“We’ve already employed six people, but we can see we need another meat cutter,” Southwick imparted.

Southwick added the Maple Grove shop is currently handling the cutting and wrapping of 10-14 pigs a day.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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