Living through coronavirus: Butler County meat shops serving surge, with prices rising

Zach Roberts cuts meat for sausage Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at Dave’s Quality Meats of West Chester. Dave’s Quality Meats of West Chester on Smith Road has changed the way they do business during the coronavirus pandemic. They are no longer allowing customers inside the store and are taking call-in orders for curbside pick-up. Orders must be placed 24 hours in advance. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

While area meat markets set record sales last month because of the demand for their products, consumers can expect a price increase caused by the coronavirus.

Pete Zink, 52, a sixth-generation butcher at Zink’s Meat Market in Franklin, said his wholesalers raised their prices by 50 percent on pork and 30 percent on beef. He said starting Thursday, the first day Zink’s opened after the increase, it will be forced to raise its prices, though it will absorb some of the increase.

MORE CORONAVIRUS: Kroger sales surge 30 percent in March during coronavirus stockpiling

The reason for the price increase is the “kill is down” at slaughter houses because of the reduced workforce in response to the coronavirus, Zink said.

Even though Zink’s was closed Wednesday, Pete Zink and other family members were working inside the meat market on North Riley Boulevard getting ready for the expected rush the rest of the week. He said sales tripled for 14 days from March 11-24.

That’s because when the national chains ran out of meat, non-regular customers started shopping at Zink’s, he said.

In West Chester, Dave’s Quality Meats, in business for nearly 26 years, set sales records in March, said Abby Rowe, deli manager. She said sales exceeded those typically seen during the Christmas season.

“It’s been chaotic,” she said. “Insane. We couldn’t believe it. We were swamped here. Maybe this is our new normal. But we’re starting to get things figured out.”

MORE CORONAVIRUS: Coronavirus: President approves disaster declaration, federal funds for Ohio

She said customers are encouraged to call in orders 24 hours in advance, then use the curb-side service available at 4883 Smith Road off Ohio 747.

Dave’s uses five meat distributors, and while some of the national chains ran out of meat, there was always “a good amount of stock in the cases” at Dave’s, she said.

Zink said when he heard about the possible severity of the coronavirus in the second week of March, he immediately increased his order with his wholesalers. While the store was fully stocked with meat, Zink said he forgot to increase the paper product order so they ran out of grocery bags.

After Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered social distancing, Zink’s started allowing six customers inside at a time and they were encouraged to remain six feet apart. Those restrictions led to long lines outside the store, he said. At one point, the line stretched down the street nearly to the fire station.

“This has been really strange for all of us,” said Zink, who added his No. 1 priority is the safety of his employees, family and customers. “This is just a different way of doing business.”

Now, he said, sales has slowed, but remain “above normal.”

TELLING YOUR STORIES

We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email rick.mccrabb@coxinc.com.

In Other News