Iowa farmer standing in front of meat processing buildi

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Bailey family raises the ‘steaks’ to purchase Anita Meat Processing

October 28, 2022 | Kriss Nelson

When an opportunity knocked, Scot Bailey, wife Cheryl and son Jackson answered.

Scot, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 7 director from Anita, says the opportunity to take ownership of Anita Meat Processing came one day while at the local grocery store.

Tim Miller, owner of the locker at the time, asked Scot, “Do you want to buy a locker?”

“Right away, my answer was no,” says Scot.

Scot told his wife about the conversation. Cheryl thought about it and had an epiphany – Jackson had worked for another locker for several years and had experience cutting meat.

“Owning the Anita Meat Locker is an opportunity for our son to be a part of an operation of his own. It’s also helping the community,” says Scot. In February 2023, Bailey Beef Processing doing business as Anita Meat Processing was born.

Jackson is the company’s manager, Cheryl works in the office and Scot lends a hand wherever needed.

Continuing a tradition

With the purchase, the Baileys are carrying on a nearly century-long tradition of having a meat locker in their community.

“I have been cutting meat since I was 18, so I have the experience,” says Jackson. “I think it’s cool it is nearly 100 years old this year. I want to keep it going for many more decades.”

Expanding the business

Cass County has three functioning meat lockers. All three, Scot says, are inundated and can’t process meat fast enough. Appointments are already being made for 2024 processing.

To keep up with demand, the Bailey family has expanded the building, allowing for a larger processing area and purchasing the equipment needed to ship meat out of state.

“There is a demand for Iowa-raised meat. People like the quality,” says Scot. “My little sister lives in Arizona, and when they have friends over, the first question they ask is, ‘Are these Iowa burgers?’”

The facility improvements have been made partly with financial assistance from grants, including a recently announced grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Program.

This additional funding, announced in August, brings total program funding to $54.6 million.

According to the USDA, this funding will help strengthen and develop new market opportunities for meat and poultry processors throughout the U.S. In Iowa, 100 lockers will benefit from the grants.

“The Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grants will help meat and poultry processors make necessary facility improvements, expand their businesses and strengthen the nation’s food supply chain,” says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “These grants are one part of USDA’s Meat and Poultry Supply Chain initiatives and will contribute to our efforts to transform our food system.”

Bringing value to producers

Scot says livestock producers can make a higher premium on their hogs and cattle by having them processed locally.

“Local processing adds value by providing more of a premium price versus taking hogs or cattle to the larger meat plants,” he says.

To Scot, it all comes down to quality.

“I have a good friend who owns a meat store and sells the meat we process for him at a premium. There are other farmers nearby doing the same thing. They are adding value to their product and gaining customers,” Scot says. Keeping local meat lockers in business opens avenues for livestock producers and soybean farmers.

“We have a lot of soybean crush plants coming online, which means we’ll have excess soybean meal and soybean hulls that are very viable for putting into feed,” says Scot. “You can build a feed ration from soybean meal, soy hulls, corn or corn silage. That brings more demand to the row crop farmer.”