Local livestock producer, grocery store weigh-in on meat supply

News 10 talked to individuals involved in the meat industry from the farm to grocery store on Tuesday.

Posted: May 5, 2020 6:24 PM
Updated: May 6, 2020 11:20 AM

CORY, Ind. (WTHI) -- Livestock producers are feeling the impact of meat processing plants being closed.

We talked to individuals involved in the meat industry ranging from farm to grocery stores on Tuesday.

“From a price standpoint, we were barely at a breakeven threshold to start with, and now when we put this on, it just creates another challenge,” AJ Williams said.

Williams raises hogs in Cory, Indiana. He started feeling the impact of COVID-19 on the pork industry back in March.

“We’ve sold more feeder pigs, I guess, to the general public this spring than ever. You know people getting nervous about a shortage of supply of meat and so on, and actually going to grow their own meat out here that will be ready later this summer.”

A backlog occurs on the farm when producers don’t have a place to take the livestock to get processed.

“The local processors are backed up October, November. It’s into the fall to get an animal processed. They’re just overbooked.”

News 10 talked to the department head of agricultural economics at Purdue University about the food supply chain. He says the consequences of processing plant closures could lead to increasing meat prices in the coming weeks. It could also mean limited availability depending on where you live and where you shop.

“You know so what we may be seeing and what I’m seeing in my local markets is more whole muscle cuts in your grocery store, more vacuum packaging of cuts, rather than the individually sliced cuts of meat. So again, that will vary a lot depending on where you’re at. But I suspect given the reduced amount of labor available in these packing plants, that may be one thing that you see in your grocery stores,” said Jayson Lusk, Professor and Department Head of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.

Baesler’s Market in Terre Haute says they are not having trouble getting meat products in.

“You know as of right now we’re hoping we’re not going to have to put a limit on how much people can buy, but it’s still unforeseeable,” said Casey Baesler, store manager for Baesler’s Market.

At this time, the store is not forecasting any price increases in meat. Williams says some relief may occur once plants begin to reopen.

“The sooner than later that we can get our country back up to some sort of normalcy here, and certainly you feel sorry for those folks that are being affected in those processing facilities that they can get healthy, and we can get back up and running," Williams described.

According to the CDC, there’s no evidence at this time that COVID-19 is spread through food or food packaging.

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