Beef prices on the rise during pandemic

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 20:43:34-04

Some prices at grocery stores are increasing, but one item that's been very much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is commercial beef.

We spoke with 2J's Fresh Market administrator Graham Kerwin: "We are thinking this is caused by distributions in meat processing as well as decreasing in an inventory of meat supply."

But they have been finding ways to get around the issue: "We are turning more to local meats and local meat producers for the product because it's less expensive than commercial right now."

We talked with Kailee Gondeiro, who's a local beef rancher who happened to be shopping, and she says she's happy with what she has: "I feel pretty blessed that we have our beef and locally at home and that we can get, and don't have to worry about how it's being bought out at the store."

She also says buying locally helps keep business going.

"I would say so, you're supporting local business, especially with what's going on, you're just supporting people locally and keeping that business going, and I'm sure they are being affected quite a bit on supply and demand," says Gondeiro.

COVID-19’s Impact On The Meat Industry

  • May 7 - Brittany Anas/Scripps

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 38 meatpacking plants in the United States have shut down operations at some point, whether it be for a day or for more prolonged or indefinite periods, according to The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting , which has been tracking the closures.

Because employees in meatpacking plants work in close proximity, the COVID-19 virus may be more easily spread inside them. As of May 6, there have been 10,800 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 170 plants in 29 states. There are also at least 45 reported worker deaths at 24 plants in 15 states, according to the nonprofit news organization.

Invoking the Defense Production Act to classify meatpacking facilities as essential, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in late April that compelled meat facilities to remain open despite employees testing positive for COVID-19. A White House fact sheet says the order is intended to make sure Americans have a reliable supply of products like beef, pork and poultry. However, unions like the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union criticized Trump for valuing the availability of meat products over worker safety.

Stores Are Imposing Purchase Limits On MeatBeyond fast-food chains, some grocery stores are limiting the amount of meat customers can buy. Costco recently updated its policies temporarily limiting shoppers to three items of beef, pork and poultry products to “ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need.”

K roger has also announced it will also begin limiting meat purchases at stores. Other stores, such as ShopRite, Albertson’s, Food Lion, Hy-Vee and H.E.B. , are following suit.

The Wall Street Journal estimates that meat production is down 35% from this period last year and says consumers should expect higher prices and less selection in their beef and pork products going forward.