LAWLER — Brady Reicks sends around 1.3 million pigs to market each year from his family’s Reicks View Farms near Lawler. The majority are processed at Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo.
But with Tyson shutting its doors last week, joining other hog processing facilities in the Midwest, Reicks has few places left to send his pigs. Smaller slaughterhouses can’t handle the massive influx of hogs from Iowa’s multi-billion dollar industry.
So Reicks and many farmers face a grim prospect: humanely killing pigs and disposing of the bodies until the plants reopen.
As long lines form at food banks across the country and consumers face shortages and price hikes at grocery stores, Reicks can’t help but note the disconnect.
“What’s so frustrating is that people are eating pork and they just can’t get it, and it’s not because the plants don’t want to run, and not because the grocery stores don’t want to sell, and not because the producers aren’t producing pigs,” he said. “You can’t get it through the supply chain because of the human safety issue.”
Tyson shut down its Waterloo plant last week amid a COVID-19 outbreak. Spokesperson Liz Croston said Monday the company does “not have a date determined yet for resuming operations.”
Reicks is hoping for some help from the government to stem losses, and perhaps even aid in the humane killing and disposal of his animals — a tough job to put on his farm workers.