NewsLocal NewsMichigan

Actions

Supply chain experts warn against possible meat shortage

Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 23:48:31-04

WEST MICHIGAN — Tyson Foods and other meat manufacturers are warning of a possible meat shortage in the coming weeks.

This all comes as processing plants across the country suspend or decrease operations due to COVID-19.

Supply chain experts say while stores in West Michigan may be well-stocked for now, there is a disruption in the meat industry’s supply chain that will likely have a trickle-down effect in the days and weeks to come.

Brian Long, Director of Supply Management Research at Grand Valley State University said, “We all take food for granted and we just assume it’s always going to be at the supermarket when we go there.”

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has proved, that’s not always true.

“In the case of pork right now as well as chicken and beef, we’ve got a disruption in the supply chain,” Long said.

“The problem is, that supply chain is set up so farmers know before they even start growing the hogs, exactly where those hogs are going to be sold, where they’re going to have to transport them to, and then the grocery chains in turn, know exactly who they are buying from, when the trucks have to be there. That also means that when one particular branch of the supply chain breaks down, they have to completely rearrange and send refrigerator trucks, sometimes to the other end of the country compared to where you did.”

He adds that system is very delicate.

That means it could take longer for meat to get from point A to point B, with processing plants and slaughterhouses taking the brunt of the pandemic.

Long said, “The farmers are still farming because they are not under quarantine like many of the other industries in this country, but the processing plants because of the proximity in which people have to work next to each other, face that possibility of passing that coronavirus along.”

Just in the month of April, three major meant processing companies announced temporary closures, including Tyson foods in Waterloo, IA, Smithfield foods in Sioux Falls, SD, and JBS foods in Colorado and Minnesota.

Despite the disruption, Long cautions against overbuying.

He said, “We shouldn’t panic on something as simple as that, we should instead look for alternatives.”

Long said, “The farmers are still farming because they are not under quarantine like many of the other industries in this country, but the processing plants because of the proximity in which people have to work next to each other, face that possibility of passing that coronavirus along.”

In fact, Long said there’s a surplus of frozen meat right now, which can replace fresh meat in a pinch for consumers.