While there are grocery store shortages, the fact remains there are no current shortages of meat in the United States. Why, then, is the meat supply chain breaking? Why is there very little meat on the grocery store shelves? There are two reasons: 1) The main issue is finding an alternate place to send market-ready animals when there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a meat processing facility, leading to a shut down. This has been the case with the Smithfield Foods processing plant in South Dakota. Animals ready for slaughter must be rerouted to meat plants that are operational. All large meat-processing plants have animal processing plans in place months in advance, making it hard to immediately work other animals into their processing schedule. Reason #2) Our schools and restaurant dining rooms are closed causing meat products packaged for their consumption to be rerouted to grocery stores, which can take some time. It is a repackaging problem being solved by the supply companies.
What does all this mean for the farmers? Farmers now have to hold animals on their farms longer, which means spending more money on feed, housing and labor for animals that should have been transported to meat processing plants. Farmers who fatten cattle cannot receive new animals on the farm until the finished (ready for processing) animals are transported off the farm. Farmers who raise calves cannot sell them to fattening facilities that are full of fat cattle. This causes demand to go down at each step causing prices to go down at each step, cutting into an already narrow profit margin. Again, this backup does not mean there is a meat shortage; it just means that fresh protein is taking longer than normal to get to your local grocery stores.
Meanwhile local farmers, local restaurants and other retailers are working hard to get their products directly to consumers. Most of you have seen or heard about chicken sold in large packages at parking lots in our area. Some restaurants are repackaging their bulk orders to sell direct to households. Local grocery stores and box stores are limiting purchase amounts to stabilize inventory. Farmers are selling direct to consumers. Check out www.Meatsuite.com and buy from a local farmer directly. In the next Cooperative Extension Service (CES) article, I will explain how & where to buy animals or meat locally and all the requirements by NCDA & CS to keep your meat safe to eat.
Questions, call the NC Cooperative Extension-Lincoln County office at: 704.736.8461 or the CES area livestock extension agent, Glenn Detweiler 405-219-1902 T/C.
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