November 22, 2022 538 PM
MARFA — Marfa Meats, a local meat processing facility and shop, will close its doors in the coming months, with its owner citing financial difficulties.
A number of variables collided to make the company financially unsustainable, said owner Christy Miller. For one, Marfa Meats has struggled to find enough workers with the necessary, specific skill set within the small, remote Far West Texas community. That shortage has made it difficult to process enough meat to stay afloat.
“The reality is, the volumes that you need to process to make money in such a capital intensive enterprise is significant, and we could just really never make it to that point,” said Miller.
Additionally, a relative shortage of local cattle — attributable to drought and the cost of feed — has meant a shortage of business. Then there’s the matter of the remote geography coupled with the cost of doing business and already-strained profit margins — attempting to ship meat directly to consumers has proven costly and fraught with complications, said Miller. “UPS two-day air can’t make it anywhere in two days, so I ended up refunding like 30% of my orders because it doesn’t make it in time,” she said.
“Geography is the root of most of the problems,” she continued. “Obviously, not the only problem, but it’s all related.”
Miller opened Marfa Meats in the summer of 2021 in an effort to bring back the local butcher of yesteryear, a model in which consumers know exactly where their meat is coming from, who raised the cattle and who processed it. Marfa Meats works directly with local ranchers to achieve this; the cattle being slaughtered and sold were raised within a 20-mile radius of the butcher shop. The realities of running such a business — the difficulties of keeping the supply chain truly local — were simply insurmountable.
Now, with a looming deadline to vacate the processing facility, Miller is looking to sell off remaining halves of beef. The Aufdengartens, of the Aufdengarten Cattle Company, are now in a bind, explained Miller — they’ve gone through the costly process of preparing cattle for slaughter, and Marfa Meats will not be able to process them all. The more halves Marfa Meats is able to sell to consumers, though, the less of a financial burden will fall on the Aufdengartens.
“It’s really not even about what’s in my carcass cooler,” explained Miller. “It’s about helping them not be in such a bad position.”
Miller is encouraging interested buyers with ample freezer space to purchase a half beef, around 220 pounds, for roughly $1,750, which would take up 12-14 cubic feet in a freezer. A whole beef is double that. Those with less freezer space will still have the option of buying beef from Marfa Meats until the product runs out. The shop is open Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The online shop can be found at marfameats.com. Those interested in purchasing halves or wholes are encouraged to call Miller at 720-224-4844.
Marfa Meats will likely stay open at least until the end of January, she said.
Miller said she wished to thank the community for their support and warm acceptance for the time they’ve been operational — and she hopes locals will continue to support local businesses that remain.
“I hope that if people never really thought about what eating local meant, that they take this to heart and, whether we’re here or not, make an effort to try to support local businesses,” she said. “Because without support, they don’t survive.”