Last updated 11/21/2022

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Biden-Harris administration recently announced more than $223 million in grants and loans to increase meat and poultry competition and economic opportunities through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP).

This move is needed in the country, especially in Utah, where families were hit with high meat and poultry prices and shortages. Public information officer of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Bailee Woolstenhulme, said the current time to process a cow is at least a year.

“Here in Utah, we noticed even before COVID there were issues; there was a huge lack of meat processing availability in Utah. If you have a cow, you have to get on a list at least a year in advance to get that cow processed. A cow is typically ready to process in a year. You essentially have to have that processing date when they’re born,” Woolstenhulme said.

Biden’s investment could play a key role in reducing the time and possibly help with the diversification of meat and poultry companies. While Woolstenhulme does not yet know where the Biden-Harris investment will go, she hopes some of it can come to Utah. She said that with more funding, there can be more diversification in the industry, which could help avoid processing times, and other potential delays, like what happened during COVID-19.

“If we’re reliant solely on these larger facilities, a lot of different things can happen… A lot of those processing plants, especially the larger ones, were shut down for weeks at a time because of Covid exposures from the workers in the plant, and so it’s really important that we have diversification in our processing abilities here in Utah… just being more food secure in Utah is our goal,” Woolstenhulme said.

Last year, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food received a food security grant of one million dollars from the state legislature.

“We received 1 million dollars from the state legislature in the 2022 session to administer Food Security grants. Through the application process, we received over 14 million dollars in grant requests from food processors to increase their business. This demonstrates a great need for more funding and we hope to get more money in the upcoming legislative session to provide more grants to further increase our food security in Utah,” Woolstenhulme said.

Any money received would then be distributed to the companies that are in the most need and who can have the quickest turnaround for food production.

“We would love to look at newer facilities that are trying to get off the ground. New meat production facilities… Anything that would bolster food security for Utah,” Woolstenhulme said.

Outside of meat and poultry production, “lab-grown,” also known as “cultivated” meat, which has grown directly from animal cells, could help lower the demand for future meat production and stress on the economy. The FDA recently cleared lab-grown meat for human consumption, making that closer to reality.

According to the first cultivated meat producer, Mosa Meat, “…meat demand will continue to soar as the world’s population reaches 10 billion, and our planet will be stretched beyond its limits.”

However, no MPPEP grant has been awarded to producers of cultivated meat. The primary goal is to provide more and better processing options for farmers and ranchers as soon as possible.

“Through this program, USDA is providing grants to projects that will strengthen local and regional food systems; create jobs for people in rural communities; and increase opportunities for small, independent and family-owned businesses,” a USDA spokesperson said.