LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s a weekday at Red Hog Meats in Louisville and, despite letting customers in one at a time, business is good.

“It’s different,” said General Manager Duncan Paynter when asked about the past two months of business. “We’ve done, I think, a good job at adapting.”

Meat can barely stay on the shelves at Red Hog these days. The small butcher sources from multiple local farms and its head butcher says whatever the farm produces is what’s on the menu – not the other way around. 

The farm-to-store relationship is much different at the national level. The chairman of Tyson Foods took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times and wrote that if plants keep shutting down, there will be a breakdown in America’s food supply chain. In late March, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wanted to thank and encourage essential food workers.

“Many of you cannot telework,” Perdue said in the USDA video message. “Inspection teams are working to keep you safe…”

In April, Perdue’s department issued more than a dozen of what are called “line speed waivers” to major producers – including Tyson, which has several facilities in Kentucky. The waivers allow for faster production speeds to meet demand, but UCFW, a food worker union that boasts 1.3 million members, argues this makes social distancing difficult and the spread of the virus more likely. That allegation was made along with demands to improve safety, submitted in a letter to Sec. Perdue, dated April 20.

Back at Red Hog, Paynter says his small farmers are operating as normal; and while he wants Kentucky to return to normal, shops like his can help if grocery stores can’t keep shelves stocked.

“When this whole thing first happened, people, called and said, ‘Do you have ground beef? Kroger is out,’” He recalled. “I said, ‘Yep, we’re grinding beef every day.’”

Tyson Foods did not respond to a Spectrum News 1 request for an interview.