Local beef business booming on Carroll County farm

Elmer and Annette Rahn pose with their grandkids, front to back, Adalynn, Emilie, Austin and Anthony in the middle of their cattle operation in Carroll County. (Photo by Mitchel Rahn)

It appears the surge in demand for local meat experienced early on in the pandemic last year wasn’t just a temporary trend.

Elmer and Annette Rahn, Carroll County Farm Bureau members, say their local beef business, R Meats, continues to see an influx of customers. They discussed the boom with FarmWeek during May Beef Month, which marks the unofficial start of grilling season.

“We found orders really picked up with the pandemic,” Annette said from their farm in the Mount Carroll/Chadwick area. “When logistics got messed up (in the commercial meat processing and distribution chain due to COVID last spring) people had never seen grocery stores be short on food.

“People knew we had beef, so it was a domino effect,” she noted. “It’s great people want to buy local. We use local plants so customers can get cuts exactly how they want, and we always have hamburger available.”

Local beef business booming on Carroll County farm

Three generations of the Rahn family, left to right, Austin, Mitchel, Correy, Anthony and Elmer, pose near a cattle barn on their Carroll County farm. (Photo by Annette Rahn)

The Rahns maintain a cow/calf operation and care for feeder steers until they’re ready for market. The Rahns process some of their cattle for the local market through Carroll County Locker in Lanark and Johnson Processing in Chadwick.

“We have one stoplight in the whole county, but we’re really fortunate to have two lockers,” Annette said. “We believe, like most beef producers, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it. We’re proud to share our beef.”

The Rahns, fifth-generation farmers who have five children, also grow corn, soybeans and hay, and operate a custom hay/straw business. They farm with two of their sons, Correy and Mitchel, and are all active in Farm Bureau.

Correy and Kellie Rahn won Illinois Farm Bureau’s Young Leader (YL) Achievement Award last year, while Justin and Ellen Rahn won the 2018 YL Excellence in Ag Award, all nearly 30 years after Elmer and Annette won the Achievement Award. Justin also serves on the Illinois Beef Checkoff Board.

“We try to be diversified with cattle, row crops and hay,” Elmer said. “It keeps us busy, and when one part of the operation is not as profitable, hopefully another part picks it up.

“Putting feed through livestock is not the best thing (profitability-wise) right now” due to historically high feed costs, he noted. “But it wasn’t a year ago corn was $3. It’s all cyclical and has its ups and downs.”

The Rahns are Beef Quality Assurance certified with a focus on top-notch animal care and producing high-quality beef products.

“The Midwest has the standard for producing the best beef,” Elmer said. “We’re proud to be part of that.”

The Rahns’ hamburger has been featured in recent years at nearby Timber Lake Resort and Campground on special occasions and cookouts.

Growing demand for local meat and other products could also be contributing to a surge in the family’s custom hay and straw business, along with a vibrant livestock industry in northwest Illinois.

“When our kids came back to the farm, they had a small square baler and would do wheat straw and hay. From there, they bought a large square baler,” said Annette, who noted they also produce large round bales. “Our hay business has really mushroomed. We have business within about a 100-mile radius.”

Those interested in purchasing beef can call R Meats at 815-499-0463, or for a directory of farms that sell local meat around the state, visit the Illinois Beef Association’s website at {illinoisbeef.com}.