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Nearly 5,000 coronavirus cases in 115 meat and poultry processing plants were reported in April, the disease control and prevention centers said. The tight working conditions in these facilities pose a significant risk for transmission. The virus spreads through coughing, sneezing, saliva, and even vaporized breath.
If security concerns temporarily shut down, there is indeed a lack of meat in America, and what does this mean for grocery stores waiting to replenish their shelves? Here’s more information on what we know about meat shortages, how it affects local farmers, and what you can do if you don’t find meat in stores. This story is intended to provide an overview of the situation and to be updated regularly.
Does coronavirus cause meat deficiency?
James Martin / CNET
Cold stores for grocery stores may not display all of the usual cuts. But does this mean that there are not enough cattle? Not necessarily. The larger facilities may have closed, but farmers still have pigs, cattle, and chickens. The problem is that they cannot process or sell them while the facilities are closed, which means, for example, that farmers with large pork farms have to kill their pigs, leading to food waste.
According to Vox, a poultry processor has to put 2 million chickens to sleep. Currently, according to The Guardian, keeping excess cattle on the farms doesn’t seem to be a problem. However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has found a study that estimates livestock losses at $ 13.6 billion.
John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods (yes, the people with the chicken nuggets), said in a blog post that the food supply chain is vulnerable and that millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain while the meat factories are closed. Others believe that the stoppages will not lead to an interruption in the supply chain, but will create a burden, albeit a significant one.
As part of its policy to reopen the economy, the CDC stated that coronavirus outbreaks in food production facilities and other critical industries paralyzed communities financially and threatened national food security. Widespread restaurant closings can also play a role, as companies completely close or cancel their orders when more people eat at home.
A 2018 USDA study found that Americans consume 10 ounces of meat a day, which is about 22% above the recommended amount, depending on how much you weigh and how active you are (more on the recommended daily allowance below).
How much is the industry affected?
Large meat processing plants such as Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS and Perdue Farms were affected by plant closures.
For example, Tyson Foods produces approximately 20% of the US beef, pork and chicken. The Tyson Indiana plant had nearly 900 coronavirus cases earlier this month, accounting for 40% of the workforce at this location. This 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 corona virus. Around 19,500 pigs are processed in this facility alone, which corresponds to 5% of the total production in the USA.
According to The Wall Street Journal, JBS, which processes 23% of US cattle, will be affected by coronaviruses for months.
Is it safe to eat meat from plants reported by employees with COVID-19?
Tyler Lizenby / CNET
According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted from food to a person. If you’re still concerned, follow Foodsafety.org’s guidelines for cooking beef and pork at 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, a level that is known to kill bacteria and other pathogens.
How do business deal with the situation?
Business can be affected differently in the United States. Many have already limited their customers to two or three packs of each type of meat. For example, if you buy a pack of steak and a pack of minced meat, you have reached your beef limit. This is to ensure that no one person buys all of the meat off the shelves.
How are farmers affected who send their cattle to these meat plants?
Tyler Lizenby / CNET
In the world of Precorona viruses, large farms packed up their cattle and brought them to meat packaging companies and then to the butcher. However, as plants slow down, animal processing is reportedly lagging behind. With large meat packaging operations such as Tyson closed, large farms across the country are reported to be walking an economic tightrope. Feeding cattle is expensive, and since they cannot send their animals anywhere, some turn to culling their herd.
Are my independent local farmers affected?
In some areas, more people buy meat from independent local farmers, according to the CBS. But these 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 so that they can no longer process their cattle when all butchers are full.
Even if more people than usual want to buy meat directly from farmers, there is still a chance of a delay if the smaller butchers with limited meat processing capacity are overwhelmed by the increased demand.
According to a family member of a ranch that CNET spoke to and that wanted to remain anonymous, appointments with smaller and more boutique butchers are usually booked well in advance.
Can I still get meat from a meat delivery service and restaurants?
Yes. Most meat delivery services work with independent suppliers to fulfill orders. However, there may be delays. If this is your first time signing up for a meat delivery box, we recommend that you call to find out how they are affected.
Note that many of these services are more expensive than grocery stores, often due to the sale of grass-fed, organic, heirloom, or aged meat. For example, a box of Crowd Cow steaks costs around $ 76 ounces (or £ 4.75) for $ 159. Similar steaks in the supermarket can cost around $ 100 or less for the same weight.
Restaurants operate in a different supply chain than grocery stores, so it’s likely that open restaurants in your area have meat. Some may limit their dishes in response or introduce new menu items that reduce the amount of animal protein in a particular dish. For example, a restaurant might offer a noodle-with-chicken dish instead of a whole chicken breast with potatoes.
How long could a meat shortage last?
It is unclear when factories, restaurants and inventories will return to the Precoronavirus level. Some experts believe deliveries will recover as early as June, while others say this could take the duration of the pandemic.
In April, President Trump signed an implementing regulation to keep meat processing plants open during the pandemic, thereby avoiding bottlenecks. However, some brands, such as Tyson and Smithfield, keep their factories closed to ensure worker safety. They say that if the employees don’t show up for work, they can’t work.
In order for workers to feel safe, they would need to provide more personal protective equipment and sufficient space between workers. According to the CEO of Tyson, the company measures employee temperatures, installs infrared temperature scanners in the facilities, provides face coverings and performs daily disinfection work.
Are impossible foods or beyond meat affected?
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are companies that produce plant-based foods as an alternative to animal meat. Your goal is to produce a product that tastes and behaves like minced beef and pork when cooked.
A representative from Impossible Foods said that its facilities have not been affected by the corona virus so far, so its products are still available for purchase. The representative found that the main ingredient is soy. Therefore, the company relies on heavy machinery operated by some key employees while enforcing social distancing.
According to MarketWatch, companies have actually seen sales increase due to the limited supply of meat. Impossible Foods representative said the company started the year in 150 grocery stores and today in about 3,000 stores.
Their websites can help consumers find nearby grocery stores that sell their products. The vegetable beef and pork is currently not available by mail order.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about an illness or health goals.