State grants support local meat lockers

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Two local businesses have received state funds aimed at expanding meat processing opportunities in Iowa.

Dan’s Locker in Earlville and Rockdale Locker in Maquoketa each received $50,000 grants from Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund.

The program was created in 2021 to support small-scale meat processing, licensed custom lockers and mobile slaughter units.

Rockdale Locker is a new business that opened its doors Jan. 2.

“We’re trying to help fill a gap in meat-processing locally,” co-owner Chad Thompson said.

Dave Heiar, senior advisor and community coach at Jackson County Economic Alliance, said the new business will fill a void in the community.

“We’re extremely excited about this because we’ve had other lockers that have closed down in Jackson County in the past several years,” Heiar said. “Having direct access from the farm right to the customer is extremely beneficial.”

Owners Heather and Brandon Moore and Chad and Kim Thompson opened the meat locker, along with a grocery store and creamery, in response to supply shortages and empty shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Thompsons are cattle farmers, and the Moores produce cheese and meat products. The business also serves other local farmers.

Chad Thompson said the business has brought on head butcher Tim Clasen, who has 30 years of experience in the industry. The $50,000 grant is being used to cover some of the cost of renovating the facility.

“It’s a great thing to see that the hard work we’re doing is being recognized,” Chad Thompson said.

Dan’s Locker, the other local grant recipient, was established in 1947, according to the Earlville meat processing and retail meat sale operation’s website.

In a Facebook message, officials from Dan’s Locker said the business has new owners as of the first of the year and still is determining the specifics of how the grant will be used.

The business is “still trying to get a grasp on all of the opportunities,” the message states, and has until the end of the year to spend the funds.

“We have to use it to expand capacity and/or add value to the local producers,” the business wrote. “Exactly how we do that is not yet ready for implementation.”

The business did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Delaware County Economic Development Executive Director Donna Boss said Dan’s Locker plays an important role in the community and expressed hopes that its success could provide extended economic benefits for the community.

“(The COVID-19 pandemic) showed us the importance of having local lockers, that we can continue to have a wonderful constant outlet for our local producers and for consumers to buy local and know where their meat is coming from,” she said.