Manure Manager

News
COVID-19 outbreaks close meat processing facilities


April 23, 2020
By Manure Manager

After a series of COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants, more than a dozen facilities across North America have closed temporarily, including plants run by Smithfield Foods, Olymel, Cargill, JBS USA and Maple Leaf Foods.

The facilities were designated an essential service but were unable to provide adequate protective equipment and enact sufficiently robust social distancing measures due to the nature of the work. At the plants that remain open, absenteeism is an increasing issue, as workers seek to remain safe and reduce their risk of infection.

This has caused concern on both the producer and consumer sides of the food supply chain. While the loss of sales to restaurants has resulted in a 30 per cent drop in overall meat demand, consumer demand for meat products is higher, but for different cuts of meat. With the reduced capacity for processing at the plants that remain open, the ability to change to meet consumer needs is slower.

Producers of beef, pork and poultry are finding it more difficult to locate slaughter facilities, forcing them to house the animals for longer or ship them further for processing. This results in increased costs, which adds to the financial pinch caused by the surplus of livestock driving prices down.