Grants bring financial aid to Ohio meat processors


By Brianna Gwirtz, Ohio's Country Journal

May 11, 2022


It’s been a little over two years since news stories were full of photos of empty grocery stores. The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a flurry of panic buying, especially apparent in the meat case (and the toilet paper aisle). Labor issues at national packing plants caused major supply chain disruptions that are still being felt today. 


Ohio meat processors also saw a surge in their businesses as consumers turned to local sources for protein, and livestock producers looked for new avenues to market their products. However, the pandemic merely exacerbated a longer-term issue with limited livestock processing capacity within Ohio.


For several years, agricultural groups had been advocating for the need to improve and expand local meat and poultry processing. In 2021, Governor Mike DeWine announced the new creation of the Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program. The state’s 2022-2023 budget allotted funds for the program in House Bill 110. The grants, valued up to $250,000 each, were given to qualified processors through a first-come, first-serve application process. Applicants had to detail how they would utilize the grant. The state provided a list of approved expenses, such as buying new or upgraded equipment or technologies, plant construction or expansion, staff training, or certification costs.


The grant recipients were announced on Feb. 16, 2022. In total, 40 livestock and poultry processors from across the state received a grant, totaling around $10 million in funds for improvements.


For Kevin Turk, vice president of Turk Brothers Custom Meats in Ashland, the funds couldn’t have come at a better of time. His plant needed upgrades to keep up with the increased demand his business has seen.


“This grant is truly a Godsend for our business,” Turk said. “We are going to be able to make some very necessary improvements to our facility.”


The company has been in business at its current location since 1973. Turk’s father, Roy, and uncle, Chuck, started the business...