Is a meat shortage on the horizon amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Shortages of beef, chicken, and pork could be coming after several meat processing plants closed its doors amid the coronavirus outbreak, putting Americans in a tough spot when they next shop at the supermarket.
Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat processors in the US, ran a full-page spread in The New York Times Sunday, where the company grimly warned, that “the food supply chain is breaking.”
In the ad, Tyson board chairman John Tyson wrote that the devastation of the COVID-19 outbreak will leave farmers without anywhere to sell livestock, while millions of pounds of chicken, pigs, and cattle will be depopulated.
Tyson on Thursday said it was temporarily closing its beef processing facility in Dakota City, Nebraska – one of the largest beef processing plants in the country – for a deep cleaning after a growing number of positive coronavirus cases were reported in the area, according to the Associated Press.
President Trump issued an executive order earlier this week to keep meat processing facilities open during the pandemic, as multiple facilities were forced to close due to workers getting sick. Trump said the closures of the plants “threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” according to The New York Times.
As a result, industry experts expect a meat shortage to happen as early as this month.
Dennis Smith, a commodity broker and livestock analyst with Archer Financial Services, told NBC News labor issues are to blame for the shortage, with plants being forced for deep cleanings.
“We’ve just completed our third week of reduced slaughter and production,” Smith told the outlet. “My guess is that about one week out, perhaps around May 1, shortages will begin developing at retail meat counters.”
Three of the largest pork processing plants in the country ceased operations indefinitely, according to CNN. Those plants together make up for around 15% of pork production in the US.