Closed Meat Plants Today Mean Empty Meat Cases this Summer

May 2020 - Will Sawyer

Key Points

  • The spread of COVID-19 among people who work in many beef and pork plants across the country has led to plant slowdowns and shut downs, creating a bottleneck in the U.S. meat and livestock supply chain.
  • Meat supplies for retail grocery stores could shrink by nearly 30% this Memorial Day, leading to retail pork and beef price inflation as high as 20% relative to prices last year.
  • As livestock prices have been collapsing, industry associations predict 2020 losses at $13.6 billion for U.S. cattle producers (NCBA) and nearly $5 billion for U.S. hog producers (NPPC).
  • While we expect pork processing to pick up in the coming weeks, U.S. hog producers may still be forced to euthanize as many as 7 million pigs in the second quarter alone, worth nearly $700 million at historical average prices. This would further diminish meat supplies this fall and add to the billions of dollars of losses from lower livestock prices.
  • President Trump’s executive order to reopen closed meat plants, announced April 28, could help stem the tide of additional plant closures and pave the way for closed plants to reopen. However, attracting workers to fill the thousands of vacant positions at meat plants across the U.S. is still an issue.

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