• Last modified 1251 days ago (Jan. 21, 2021)



Staff writer

The COVID pandemic has hit many businesses and individuals hard, but for some businesses it has been a life-saver.

A year ago, Dan Hageberg, owner and operator of Burdick Meat Market, thought the business was about to sink. The population of surrounding rural communities continued to shrink, and people were enjoying the convenience of buying meat at the grocery store.

However, as meat availability became an issue, a May blitz occurred, and within five days, the business was booked through September.

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything,” Dan said. “Now we have more work than we can handle. It’s the opposite of what it used to be. People would have an animal to butcher and then call for a slaughter date. Now, they call and find out the next available date and then decide when to get an animal ready for processing.”

The business is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Current bookings stretch to September 2021. The plant processes cattle, hogs, and deer.

When Dan’s grandfather, Olof Hageberg, a Swedish immigrant, took over the meat-processing plant in 1921 from Farmers Union, the process was much different than it is today. Olof would go out to a farm, slaughter an animal, and hang the carcass from a portable pole, using a rope and pulley. He then would take it into town. Water was carried from a well to clean the floor of the building after processing. Carcasses were cut up with a hand saw.

Olof and his wife, Velma, operated the business until his unexpected death in 1956. Son Gary was just 20 years old and took over with limited experience.

At the meat market’s 80th anniversary in 2001, Gary was hoping to continue for another five years, but he and his wife, Marilyn, stayed at the helm for almost another 15 years. Gary died in 2018, and Marilyn died a year later.

The business was left to Dan, who became manager in 2015. He first became involved in the business at age 27 as the “kill” man. He slaughtered animals every Wednesday at the farm just south of Burdick, which he still does.

He soon became a full-time employee. His wife, Dee, also worked there. They have been working as a team since then and have two other employees, Tina Baldridge and Marty Bell. Seven to eight animals are processed every week. They are transported in an enclosed trailer from a cooler at the farm to one in town. Electric saws are used to cut up the carcasses, which Dan said can be aged for up to 21 days before being processed.

The business has been at its present location since 1947, in a building purchased by Olof in the 1930s. The expansion into a new location was financed by installation of 100 individual lockers that customers contracted to rent.

Expansions included several walk-in coolers and freezers and enlargement of the processing area.

The market is somewhat of a convenience store, providing grocery and household items as well as frozen meat to area residents. Its facilities are used for preparing homemade ice cream for Burdick Labor Day celebrations.

The Hagebergs haven’t planned a 100th anniversary celebration because of the COVID epidemic.

“We will do it sometime in the future,” Dee said.

Dan turned 60 recently. He and his wife are optimistic about the market’s future but don’t know what will happen to it when they decide to retire. They said no one in the family has shown interest in carrying it on.

“We hope to keep it going as long as possible,” Dan said.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2021