The reduction of meat processing capacity caused by U.S. plant closures and slowdowns has created a massive bottleneck in the nation’s meat and livestock supply chain.
Nearly two dozen plants that process beef and pork products closed in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while many others have had to slow their production as a result of the disease. According to a new report from CoBank, even if the reduction of processing capacity is temporary, it will likely have a lasting impact on meat processors, livestock producers, retail stores and consumers.
Meat supplies for retail grocery stores could shrink nearly 30 percent by Memorial Day, leading to retail pork and beef price increases as high as 20 percent relative to prices last year. This week, Midwest-based grocery chain Hy-Vee announced limits on customer purchases of meat products.
Customers are limited to four packages of a combination of fresh beef, ground beef, pork and chicken when they checkout at all store locations. Costco announced similar limits earlier this week, as did Sam’s Club.