EDMONTON -- As Edmonton stores close en masse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some essential businesses are seeing higher-than-normal demand — especially butcher shops.

Baltyk Meat and Deli on Kingsway has remained open through the crisis and staff there say it's been an unexpectedly busy month.

"March, it's up approximately three times more than usual per day," said co-owner Ben Jasinski. "A week ago it was a little bit down but still two, two-and-a-half times more than usual."

Jasinksi says last week, staff worked extended hours just to keep the shelves stocked.

Meanwhile in St. Albert, D'arcy's Meat Market got so busy it called in reinforcements over the weekend.

"We hired five more staff just over the weekend to keep up with demand," said Cathy Woollam.

One of those employees was Neil Korotash, who temporarily stepped behind the counter for a chance to learn — a role reversal for the agriculture teacher from Morinville.

"I teach high school normally and so I'm on spring break right now, and I told him I'd help him out because he was short-staffed," he said.

He's also returning a favour.

"The owner, Kyle, has come out and helped me a few times and taught my students a few things, so I've done a little bit and we make a lot of sausages at school," he said. "I said I can help out with that."

Another man is the owner of a gym next door that was forced to close. With school cancelled for the foreseeable future, he came to D'arcy's to see if his son could pick up some shifts.

"Yeah, basically get him out of the house and do some work for a change," said Guy Lefebvre. "It will be good."

Both butcher shops have taken precautionary measures as per government recommendations to fight the spread of COVID-19.

They each say while traffic has been similar to what they'd expect during the Christmas holiday season, there's no need to worry — they're not short on product.

"I know people are worrying, but we still have access to all the products people are looking for," said Woollam.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association said late last week it is working hard to maintain business continuity as COVID-19 spreads.

Some producers have boosted production at their facilities to six days out of the week just to keep up with demand.