COVID-19 Will We Run Out of Meat at the Grocery Store?
COVID-19 has turned everyone's lives upside down and created huge problems for livestock producers. First let me say you CAN Not get COVID-19 from eating meat! Second, farmers are still taking care of their livestock every day, no matter what. The problem is employees at some processing plants have tested positive for COVID-19 leading to some of them being shut down.
Imagine you are a pork producer with 3,000 head of finished hogs that were scheduled to got to the hog processing plant in Sioux Fall? Now they are shut down and you do not know when they will be operating again. There are no other processing plants that can take your pigs. They are already at maximum capacity. Plus, in a week 3,000 pigs are scheduled to move out of the nursery into your finishing barn.
If there are no livestock processing plants operating eventually that would mean no meat at the grocery store! However, that is unlikely. Procedures have been developed to protect employees to keep plants operating and get those shut down back in operation. Plus, there is a big supply of red meat already processed in cold storage according to the USDA. It is like a reserve meat supply!
In the USDA Cold Storage report earlier this week total U.S. red meat in freezers was up 7 percent over last year. Looking at the breakdown, total beef in storage was up 11 percent over the same month last year. Frozen pork was 2 percent above last year and pork bellies (bacon) up a whopping 34 percent. Looking at poultry, chicken was up 6 percent and the only decrease was turkey which was down 17 percent from last year.
So, again we are not going to run out of meat anytime soon! The meat may be in a different from than consumers are used to though. Much of the meat sold in grocery stores is fresh rather than frozen. Most of the meat in cold storage is frozen. Even I know how to thaw frozen meat. Take it from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator a day before you want to use it.