Jack's inundated with business due to pandemic

THREE GENERATIONS are at work at Jack's Meat Market, striving to meet the demand which has arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Madison High school graduate Jack Jankord (left) has joined his grandfather Jeff and his dad Jared for the summer. Scheduling is key to the business at present.

Retirement may have been good, but Jeff Jankord didn't get to enjoy it long.

"He was joking around last deer season that it would be his last, but we got inundated and he came back to work," said his son, Jared Jankord of Jack's Meat Market in Madison. "He's 70 years old and he's still working like he's 25. That's what Grandpa did, too, so it's in the genes."

Unprecedented is the amount of meat the local butcher is being asked to process in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hog industry. Jack's has been a family-owned business for three generations, and current decisions are often informed by past experience, but Jeff Jankord has no advice to offer his son at present.

"I remember him saying, `I don't know what you do in a situation like this'," the younger Jankord said.

He cannot meet the current demand, primarily because his cooler is full. Normally, he processes about five beef a week.

Now, hog farmers are coming in and asking Jankord to butcher as many as 35 head at a time so they don't have to euthanize the animals. Jack's doesn't have the capacity to handle that many animals at one time, but Jankord does squeeze in what he can.

"The biggest thing right now is we have beef backed up to January," he said. "Usually, we're calling farmers to see if they want to book in November or December."

As a result of the demand, the business currently has three generations processing the animals that come in. Jack, who graduated from Madison High School this spring, has joined his father and grandfather in the business for the summer.

"He's been a huge help," Jared Jankord said, noting that his son has learned to slaughter animals.

The extra set of hands is needed due to the pace of the work. Most days begin with packing out the beef or hog from the previous day. Then, the retail counter is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following that, they process some beef and/or hogs.

In July, in addition to the beef that is usually processed, they have scheduled 10 hogs per week.

"That's going to be a challenge," Jankord said.

Although most of the customers they are seeing are repeat customers, that is not true of all the customers. Jack's is seeing new customers with hogs that would normally have gone to Smithfield's. Those farmers are looking for lockers that are willing to take 10 or 20 at a time.

"A lot of people are doing a lot of scrambling," Jankord commented.

At his end, scheduling is critical. Beef needs to hang for two weeks to age, which he has to consider in booking animals. His cooler space is limited.

Jankord said he can package meat if the animal is butchered and quartered, but that has to be scheduled as well. Currently, he has a four-person crew. He breaks the animals apart; he has two trimmers and one person to wrap the meat.

With the current demand, the focus at Jack's has shifted somewhat. The processing schedule takes priority and retail is second. That being said, Jankord doesn't want customers to forget one of their signature products.

"We have the best jerky around," he said.