EDGEWOOD, Iowa — After more than 50 years of serving northeastern Iowa as a custom meat processor, the Edgewood Locker has decided to refocus its operation and get back to the foundation of its business.

“It really just boils down to us wanting to focus on our core business to ensure we are doing the best job we can and not being distracted by some of the diversifications we have made over the years,” said Luke Kerns, co-owner of the Edgewood operation.

Recently, the locker announced it will finish catering jobs and events already booked through 2020 and will sell the Edgewood Locker Events Center. Instead the business will focus solely on custom meat production, Kerns said.

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Construction will begin next year to expand Edgewood Locker, currently 18,000 square feet. Kerns said the new building will provide the room needed to bolster its meat production as interest in custom processing grows.

“We have seen a demand increase on custom processing,” he said. “We partner with local farmers to acquire those animals. We don’t think that’s going away, and we are booked out through next March.”

Recently, the locker has started delivering its products to 60 area retailers, including Moore Family Farms in Maquoketa, Greenwood Grocery in Farley and Randy’s Market in Dyersville. Kerns said renovation and expansion are necessary as the locker aims to ramp up the retail side of its business.

“We’re excited just to be able to have more production capacity,” he said. “We have grown over the years, and we just need more space. We are excited about having additional space to do more work, produce more product and get into more stores.”

Donna Boss, executive director of Delaware County Economic Development, said she has spent the past few months helping the owners of Edgewood Locker fine-tune the project.

“Their expansion will be a huge wow for Delaware County and Clayton County,” she said. “I know they have gone above and beyond to accommodate the shortage of what has happened with the processing facilities.”

On average, about 510,000 pigs are processed per day nationwide, said Brian Dougherty, an ag engineering field specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in northeastern Iowa. But right now, those figures are down by about 30% due to the spread of the new coronavirus at meatpacking plants.

“From what I have heard, the situation here in Iowa is similar, (pork is) down about 30% from normal,” Dougherty said.

With the added space, Kerns hopes to be able to expand into larger markets.

“We don’t have anyone in Dubuque or the Asbury area selling our product,” he said. “Having additional capacity will allow us to get into those bigger centers.”

Boss said she will miss attending events and programs held at the Edgewood event center but looks forward to watching the local business evolve and serve other parts of the state.

“I think as we keep going with COVID-19, people will want to know their food source, and this will be an absolute win.”