COVID-19 places spotlight on meat sector, supply chain

Recent supply chain challenges turned the nation’s attention to the meat sector and as processing plants come back online, the sector is considering the long-term impacts.

From employee safety to animal euthanization, America’s meat processing sector is under a national spotlight.

“With all of this attention, we are going to have a whole new cast of inspectors and inquiries and a level of attention that the industry is certainly not used to or certainly hasn’t been used to in a long time,” Don Close, a senior analyst for Rabo AgriFinance, said.

According to analysts, coronavirus complications created some trust issues for the beef industry.

“What we’ve seen across the board is a destruction or certainly a really deep test of erosion in trust; that erosion starts with consumers, it works its way up to retailers and the HRI space,” Close said.

More testing and PPEs are helping to rebuild trust with workers and get plants back online.

Glynn Tonsor with Kansas State University called it a substantial recovery and noted a notable increase in testing as one of the reasons plants were able to get up and running.

However, experts warn that even though most facilities are reopen, there will still be long-term capacity issues. AFBF’s

“The life cycle of animals, it’s not a switch you can flip overnight and have that change,” Andrew Walmsley with the American Farm Bureau said. “So, it’s going to be a long-term challenges and we’re going to continue to see capacity issues on the demand side, from restaurants, from institutions, from cafeterias.”

As producers navigates uncertainty leaders push for sector support because of its vital role in food security and the rural economy. Also, some leaders say that a change to the sector could be to move to smaller meat processing facilities.