“Our meat lab is very similar to what I’d think a small local locker would be like,” Grunklee said.
Interest in the program has grown and Grunklee thinks it’s due, in part, to more people wanting to know the origin of their food. That trend is visible at some restaurants, where chefs source food locally and often list on the menu the farms where produce and animals were raised.
“For a lot of people at these lockers, they know the producer,” Grunklee said. “I might buy a pig from them, take it to the locker for processing. I get to see how that pig is raised. I get to see the condition it’s in. Not only is the food safe for them, but it’s produced in a way they feel comfortable with.”
The Edgewood Locker, with 59 full-time employees, has been doing small-scale meat processing since 1966. Located in Edgewood, on the border of Delaware and Clayton counties, the locker processes beef, pork, venison, goat and lamb for custom orders and retail, said co-owner Baili Maurer, who also is on the artisanal butchery task force.
Earlier this year, the locker started an apprenticeship program that combines hands-on work with courses at Hawkeye. Their first apprentice, Brenden Pape, started this spring on a program expected to take about two years.
“Ours is competency based,” Maurer said of the apprenticeship. “So it depends how quickly the apprentice learns the different competencies.”