Holmes-Tusc. meat canning days switch to chicken

Holmes-Tusc. meat canning days switch to chicken

While the Holmes-Tuscarawas Mennonite Central Committee meat canning board isn’t sure about how much the time difference will be for volunteer crews as it switches from turkey to chicken, they do know volunteers are the heart and soul of MCC’s effort to feed the hungry both home and abroad.


For the Holmes-Tuscarawas Relief Mennonite Central Committee meat canning days crew, there will be no more talking turkey.

Instead, they will be talking chicken.

While the phrase “talking chicken” might not roll off the tongue or have the well-known meaning turkey has made for itself, chicken has become the newest meat to find its way into the canning days that will take place this year Jan. 24-27 in Berlin.

“The price difference between chicken and turkey was considerably less, and we couldn’t justify remaining with turkey because we can get so much more chicken for our dollar,” Holmes-Tuscarawas Mennonite Central Committee meat canning board member Dwight Shoup said.

He said just because they would save money in purchasing chicken to can and send across the globe to countries in need of nourishment doesn’t mean it will come cheap.

Shoup said the price of any meat is higher than normal right now, but investing in chicken is what the board felt was necessary.

“The canning process is pretty much the same as it’s always been,” Shoup said. “We will still need many volunteers, and those who have volunteered with us before will notice some minor differences, but for the most part, it’s the same process of canning meat that has been critical to feeding the world for decades.”

The local meat canning process started with beef many years ago, switched over to turkey and now will begin its venture into canning chicken.

The process for canning begins when pallets of chicken come into the facility in refrigerated trucks. The chicken will then be unpacked, put through a grinder, stirred, salted and warmed. The product will then but placed in cans by hand, sealed and cooked. The process is topped off with volunteers washing the cans and labeling them. The finished product will be placed on pallets and shipped via truck, with MCC crews picking up the meat and taking it to Akron, Pennsylvania.

Each step of the process will be overseen by the MCC meat canning crew that will travel across the nation and into Canada. The process includes the help of many volunteers to complete the various steps, and Shoup said volunteers are as important as ever in completing the canning process.

With 15 tons of chicken on tap, it will be a time-consuming operation during the four days.

The board is seeking volunteers who can sign up throughout the event and work various shifts, from early morning hours to evening clean-up.

David Lee Kauffman oversees the volunteer sign-up, and while they will accept walk-up volunteers, the board prefers individuals and groups call ahead to reserve a specific spot.

He said it takes close to 100 volunteers each day to properly handle the shifts, with first shift from 6-10 a.m., second shift from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., third shift from 2-6 p.m. and a clean-up crew that takes over at 6 p.m. and cleans until the facility is ready for the next morning.

“We have a lot of Amish groups call in to volunteer, and it’s good to know ahead of time what our volunteer list looks like,” Kauffman said. “Usually, we have church youth groups fill the clean-up roles each night. It’s a great way for them to do service work.”

He said with the switch to chicken, the board is certain what each day’s output might look like. He noted there could be a little down time, but that only opens the door for fellowshipping during shifts.

Kauffman said at one point they had discussed combining with Kidron’s meat canning effort, but the board agreed this activity needed to stay put in Berlin.

“The main purpose is to feed the hungry, but this is also something that brings us closer together as a community,” Kauffman said. “It’s easy to cut a check, which is important, but it’s probably more meaningful to volunteer and come in and be a part of something like this. It’s humbling and inspiring for those who volunteer.”

He said having this event continues to create awareness to the hunger so many people both nationally and internationally are facing today.

The shift to chicken isn’t the only change for this event. Shoup said they have missed the past two canning seasons due to COVID, so getting back into the swing of things is going to be satisfying.

“It’s quite rewarding to be a part of an organization that is going to great lengths to reach out to people around the world and feed them,” Shoup said. “It’s neat that we all can be a part of something that far-reaching without having to travel too far to help.”

While Shoup said it was difficult to know that because of COVID people in far-away lands weren’t receiving the same amount of meat as usual, there is a story on the local level that also has suffered from the two-year absence.

“Part of MCC’s mission is to work locally,” Shoup said. “In the past two years, we haven’t been able to provide canned meat to Holmes County Share-A-Christmas and the Love Center Food Pantry, which touch the lives of family locally by supplying them with canned meat. It will be nice to get back to that, as well as helping people around the world.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer may call Kauffman at 330-231-5661. Those wishing to support the effort financially can do so by sending a check to Holmes-Tusc. Relief, P.O. Box 66, Berlin, OH 44610.

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