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Great Falls butcher shops power through challenges by staying local

Benjamin Handl and Drew Hicks
Great Falls butcher shops
Posted at 12:35 PM, Feb 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-13 14:35:28-05

GREAT FALLS — Meat shortages have been a problem throughout the country lately, and prices have been skyrocketing, leading some businesses feel the pressure as meat plants have been shutting down.

For two butcher shops in Great Falls, however, the issue has not been a major concern.

Drew Hicks opened Central Avenue Meats in downtown Great Falls in the midst of the pandemic. While his business is still up and running, he does say that the main challenge is that labor has been hard to come by.

Hicks said, "We're dealing with shortages in supply of labor at slaughterhouses and slaughtering facilities, which is some of the dirtier parts of the industry."

Great Falls butcher shops

Hicks gets his meat products from local sources, and he said that has helped his business out when keeping everything in stock and offer more affordable prices.

He noted, "Even though it's not cheap to bring in local meat, our customers have been willing to pay more for the quality of the local meat. Working directly with the ranchers has allowed us to remain steadier. We're not dealing with as many middlemen distributors or distributing companies, which helps affect price volatility."

Hicks says community support has also played a major role: "The community has been great to us. We've been so well-supported in Great Falls, and we've seen a lot of people go out of their way to support local ranchers, so it's been gratifying."

Discount Meats on 2nd Avenue North originally went through challenges during the pandemic on how they re-route their business.

Discount Meats owner Benjamin Handl said, "We had to lock our doors and there's no real guidelines besides like takeout, so we had to figure out how to model our business to continue on what we were doing, still serve restaurants, and get things out to people that come in generally."

Benjamin Handl

Keeping stocked up however, has not seemed to have been much of a challenge as buying local seems to be a major factor.

"We are able to keep it (prices) low because it is right here in our backyard and able to get it affordably out to you guys without marking it up, using boxed beef and what not."

While prices and shortages remain an issue throughout the country, both owners said that while there are some effects, they are still able to keep stocked up with their prices at a steady pace.