Local meat canners have no beef with turkey for the poor

Historic-high beef prices are a good thing for cattle producers these days, but those same prices have prompted a change of strategy for an annual charitable ritual.

As it has for many years, the traveling Mennonite Central Committee meat canner launched its three-day work drive in Hillsboro Monday morning with the same zeal and commitment.

But one thing has been different.

This year, the 250 to 300 volunteers who will gather at the Marion County Fairgrounds through Wednesday to help MCC can meat for hungry people around the world may be asking themselves, “Where’s the beef?”

It won’t be in MCC cans this year. Instead, workers will be working with turkey.

Stanley Johnson, local coordinator, said switching meats seemed to be the best use of the organization’s financial resources.

“The main reason was that beef took a real significant hike,” Johnson said. “At first, when we priced it a couple of months ago, it was $1.24 a pound. But the time we were ready to order it, it had jumped to a $1.74 a pound-and we could buy turkey for under $1 a pound.”

Not only was MCC able to purchase more than 40 percent more meat for the same amount of money, it is actually going to have more cans of meat to ship out.

“We’re canning the same pounds, but we’re going to have more finished product because there’s not going to be any fat waste or any broth,” Johnson said. “So we’re going to wind up with about 25 percent more cans than what we would have with beef.

MCC purchased 20,000 pounds of turkey meat for the local project, and Johnson said he was hoping to get 12,000 cans sealed and ready to ship overseas.

With 20,000 pounds of beef, Johnson figured they would have finished with about 8,600 cans.

Another advantage is that turkey meat does not have to be heated to 160 degrees like beef does before it is canned.

“We precook the beef-now we’re just warming the meat up and getting it into cans, and then it cooks a little longer in the canner,” he said. “We may save a little time that way, we may not.”

Johnson said he believes the nutritional value of the two meats would be roughly the same.

Johnson isn’t necessarily advocating that other beef-eaters change their allegiance to turkey, but when it comes to charity, the move just made sense.

“We just felt like we were getting a lot more for our money,” he said.

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