FILE PHOTO: Certified beef cattle eat from a feeding fence at a SuKarne meat processing facility in the town of Vista Hermosa, in Michoacan state, Mexico, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. meatpacking facilities have resulted in thousands of workers infected or exposed. Subsequent shutdowns and reductions at those plants have driven a 25 percent decline in beef and pork production. Meat shortages are prompting a closer evaluation of America’s meat supply chain, which some experts say has grown too fragile

Processing plants in the U.S. are highly consolidated, with just 50 plants accounting for 98 percent of beef processing, according to market analysts. The subsequent glut in slaughtering and processing capabilities has resulted in a contradictory scene across the nation, in which Americans scrounge for meat on empty supermarket shelves while some ranchers are forced to cull their livestock. 

The break in the supply chain is making way for smaller, more resilient models, food experts say. Producers of specialty meats such as heritage pork, grass-fed beef, and Amish-raised chicken say they can’t keep up with demand. Because that meat is processed in smaller plants, social distancing and sanitary precautions are easier feats and the shutdown of one plant does not greatly affect the larger supply chain. Meanwhile, sales of fresh alternative-meat products have quadrupled in the last nine weeks, compared to a rise of 45 percent for fresh meat sales. Companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods say they are increasing production and sales in an effort to attract new customers who may not currently have access to real meat products.

MEDIA CONTRIBUTION

Coronavirus could pare meat consumption by 10 pounds per American – Successful Farming – 5/13/2020 Per-capita meat consumption will fall to 217.1 pounds per person this year, ending a five-year rise in consumption, said the USDA. Before the coronavirus, it forecast meat consumption this year would be a record 227.4 pounds per person. It was 224.3 pounds in 2019.

Florida ranchers worry about meatpacking problems brought on by coronavirus – Orlando Sentinel – 5/11/2020 There weren’t any hamburgers available when Ricky Booth went to the Wendy’s near his family’s Doc Partin Ranch recently in Osceola County. “I know as a producer that the cattle are out there to fill that order,” Booth said. “It’s frustrating to know that they’re just sitting in feedlots or sitting in pastures not being processed, but I also understand that some of those processing facilities were closed because many of the workers got sick.”

Many Texas ranchers won’t survive multibillion-dollar financial hit from coronavirus – Star-Telegram – 5/10/2020 “I’m going to take whatever hit I’m going to take financially,” Potts said. “There are ranchers who can hold on until this bottleneck is fixed and the markets stabilize but I can’t do that. I have to sell them or they might not make it to next season.”

US meat processors increase exports amid coronavirus-related domestic shortages – FoodBev Media – 5/12/2020 President Donald Trump, who has been engaged in a public dispute with Beijing over its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, is facing criticism that he has put workers at risk in part to help ensure China’s meat supply. The President previously issued an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to force plants to stay open, citing the need to protect the nation’s food supply.

USDA to Purchase $470 Million in Excess Food, Deliver to Needy – Breitbart – 5/9/2020 The USDA’s latest program aims to combat food waste, which has become a massive problem since the coronavirus began as schools, restaurants, and even hotels have closed down to customers — leaving farmers with a surplus of food and nowhere to sell it.

INFLUENCER CONTRIBUTION

Mich is Me on Twitter, 5/13/2020: America’s meat shortage is more serious than your missing hamburgers https://t.co/6ueXCUeNXw via @voxdotcom

X Æ A-12 Mims on Twitter, 5/13/2020: With America running out of meat, plant-based alternative-averse Americans are contemplating the Impossible… Whopper https://t.co/X71sh2UX7H

Hermiston Herald on Twitter, 5/13/2020: “We understand the frustration of the consumer,” Dave Meade of Columbia Harvest Foods said. “Meat is essential, especially at dinner. We’ve been buying what we can. https://t.co/uxEIO0jAbZ

Rachael Bale on Twitter, 5/13/2020: This is our meat supply system. “At least two million animals have already reportedly been culled on farm…Approved methods for slaughtering poultry include slow suffocation by covering them with foam, or by shutting off the ventilation into the barns.” https://t.co/ODmH2KNcKE

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