Center for Rural Affairs launches multi-million dollar initiative to support small meat processing

Center for Rural Affairs launches multi-million dollar initiative to support small meat processing
February 2nd, 2023 | Center for Rural Affairs

Independent meat processors in Nebraska now have access to $10 million in loan capital through the Center for Rural Affairs.

The new initiative comes at a time when small lockers across the state have seen an increase in use. When packing plants were suffering from COVID-19 worker health challenges and the national meat supply chain faltered, these small businesses kept serving local customers.

This boost to Nebraska’s rural economy is made possible with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program grant.

“Small meat lockers—independent businesses by definition—help anchor small town main streets,” said Brian Depew, executive director of the Center. “They provide jobs and a retail outlet for affordable and quality local food. Independent livestock farmers rely on them to process their animals into marketable products. And, as the pandemic illustrated, they’re a critical pillar of a resilient food system in times of crisis.”

However during the pandemic, local farmers who depend on small lockers found themselves waiting months for an open slaughter date.

“The challenges for small meat lockers started long before the pandemic,” Depew said. “Consolidation in livestock production, retiring owners, and aging facilities had already shuttered many small-town lockers. It is common for local farmers to drive an hour or more to find custom slaughter and processing.”

For more than 30 years, the Center for Rural Affairs has offered loans, one-on-one business counseling, and other support to small businesses in Nebraska. Expanding these services for independent meat processors and in turn, supporting local farmers, was the next step, according to Depew.

These loans can be used for expansion of existing processors, start-up of new processors, real estate purchase, facilities update or expansion, equipment purchase, energy efficiency upgrades to facilities and equipment, sale of an existing business in cases where the sale will avert closure, or working capital.

Both primary and secondary meat processing facilities are eligible.

“Our local meat lockers need and deserve our support and assistance,” Depew said. “We will continue to bring policy change, technical assistance, and lending support to the sector because we understand that local food processing infrastructure is a cornerstone of a vibrant and sustainable rural future.”

Interested borrowers can contact Wyatt Fraas at 402.254.6893 or

For more information, visit


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