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Is there actually a shortage of meat? Here's the situation with chicken, beef, and pork


Large slabs of meat may be harder to find in the coming weeks, depending on where you live.

James Martin / CNET

Visit the WHO website for the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic.

If the meat selection in your local supermarket seems more limited and expensive than usual, it is probably not your imagination. Many stores across the country report fewer shipments of beef, pork, and chicken after more than a dozen large meat processing plants temporarily shut down operations. The reason? You guessed it: the coronavirus .

In April, nearly 5,000 cases of coronavirus were reported in 115 meat and poultry processing plants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, adding that the close working conditions in these types of facilities pose a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 .

So there is actually a shortage of meat in America, and what does it mean for the supermarkets waiting to refill their shelves? Here's more about what we know about the meat shortage, the effect on local farmers, and what to do if you can't find meat in the stores. This story is intended to provide an overview of the situation and is regularly updated.

Does coronavirus cause a shortage of meat?

James Martin / CNET

In supermarket cold stores you may not find all the cuts you're used to, but does that mean there isn't enough livestock? Not necessary. The larger facilities may be closed, but farmers still have pigs, livestock and chickens. The problem is that they cannot process or sell them while the facilities are closed, which, for example, leads farmers with large pig farms to clear their pigs, causing food waste.

According to Vox, a poultry processor says he will have to put 2 million chickens to sleep. Right now, keeping surplus livestock on the farms doesn't seem to be a problem, according to The Guardian. However, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association found an investigation estimated that losses in the livestock industry would amount to an estimated $ 13.6 billion.

John Tyson, president of Tyson Foods (yes, the people with chicken nuggets), said in a blog post that the food supply chain is vulnerable and millions of pounds of meat are disappearing from the supply chain while meat facilities are closed. Others believe that the shutdowns don't cause the supply chain to break, but rather create tension, albeit a significant one.

As part of its guidelines for reopening the economy, the CDC stated that "coronavirus outbreaks in food production plants and other critical industries are paralyzing communities and threatening national food security." Widespread restaurant closings can also play a role, with companies closing or canceling their orders completely as more people eat at home.

A 2018 USDA survey found that Americans consume 10 grams of meat per day, which is approximately 22% higher than the recommended amount depending on how much you weigh and how active you are (more on the recommended daily amount below) .

To what extent has industry been influenced?

Large meat processing plants, such as Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS and Perdue Farms, have been hit by factory closings.

For example, Tyson Foods produces about 20% of the beef, pork and chicken in the US. The Tyson plant in Indiana had nearly 900 cases of coronavirus at the beginning of this month, accounting for 40% of the workforce at that location. That location produces 19% of the pork in the United States. At another Tyson plant in Iowa, more than half of the workers tested positive for the coronavirus. That factory alone processes about 19,500 pigs a day, which represents 5% of the total production in the US.

JBS, which processes 23% of livestock in the US, says it will be affected by the corona virus for months, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Is it safe to eat meat from plants reported by workers with COVID-19?

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The CDC says there is currently no evidence to suggest that food coronavirus can be transmitted to a person. If you're still concerned, follow Foodsafety.org guidelines for cooking beef and pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, a level known to kill bacteria and other pathogens.

How do shops deal with the situation?

Stores can experience various consequences in the United States. Many have already limited customers to two or three packages of any type of meat. For example, if you buy one package of steak and one package of ground claw, you have reached your beef limit. This is to ensure that no one buys the meat from the shelves.

How are farmers affected who send their livestock to these meat plants?

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

In the precoronavirus world, large farms would pack their livestock and bring it to the meat packing plants and then to the butcher. However, now that the plants are slowing down, the processing of animals is subordinated. Now that large meat processing plants, such as Tyson, have been closed, large farms across the country are reportedly running an economic tightrope. Feeding livestock is costly, and since they have nowhere to send their animals, some turn to kill their herd.

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Are my independent local farmers affected?

In some areas, more people are buying meat from independent local farmers, according to CBS. But those farmers can only produce so much livestock, and small, local butchers can only handle so many animals at a time. At the same time, small farms also sell their animals to large slaughterhouses, leaving them unable to process their livestock when all butchers are full.

Even if more people than usual ask to buy meat directly from farmers, there is still a chance of delay if the smaller butchers with limited meat processing capacity are overwhelmed by the increased demand.

According to a ranch relative CNET spoke to who wanted to remain anonymous, appointments with smaller and more boutique slaughterhouses are usually booked well in advance.

Can I still get meat from a meat delivery service and from restaurants?

Crowd Cow

Yes. Most meat delivery services work with independent suppliers to fulfill orders, but they too can be delayed. If you are signing up for a meat delivery box for the first time, we recommend calling how they are affected.

Note that many of these services are more expensive than supermarkets, often due to the sale of grass-fed, organic, heirloom or aged meat. For example, a box of about 76-gram (or 4.75-pound) steaks from Crowd Cow will cost you $ 159. Similar grocery store steaks can cost you about $ 100 or less for the same weight.

Restaurants have a different supply chain to supermarkets, so it is likely that open restaurants in your area will have meat. Some limit their dishes in response or introduce new menu items that reduce the amount of animal protein in a particular dish. For example, instead of a whole chicken fillet with potatoes, a restaurant may offer a pasta with chicken.

How long can a shortage of meat persist?

It is unclear when factories, restaurants and supplies return to the precoronavirus level. Some experts suggest that stocks will recover as early as June, while others say this could last the pandemic.

In April, President Trump signed an executive order to keep meat processing facilities open during the pandemic to help prevent shortages. However, some brands, such as Tyson and Smithfield, keep their factories closed to protect worker safety and say they will not be able to work if workers do not show up for work.

In order for workers to feel safe, they should provide more personal protective equipment and adequate space between workers. Tyson CEO said the company records employee temperatures, installs infrared temperature scanners in its facilities, provides face covers and cleans daily.

Are Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat Affected?

Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are companies that make vegetable food as an alternative to animal meat. Their goal is to make a product that tastes and behaves like ground meat and pork when cooked.

An Impossible Foods representative said the facilities have not been affected by the coronavirus so far, so the products are still on sale. The representative noted that the main ingredient is soy, which is why the company relies on heavy machinery operated by a few key workers, while maintaining social distance. to MarketWatch. Impossible Foods representative said the company started the year in 150 supermarkets and is now in about 3,000 stores.

Their websites can help consumers find nearby supermarkets selling their products. The vegetable beef and pork are currently not available to mail order companies.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health – or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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