Coronavirus meat shortage stems from lost labor, supplier says

Tyson, Smithfield Foods begin resuming operations following coronavirus-related shutdowns

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Meat processing plants have closed throughout the country because of the coronavirus pandemic, but some industry experts are saying there’s no shortage of products.

“We’re seeing more of a shortage of labor which does create a shortage of inventory, but there’s no meat absence. We have plenty of products,” Pat LaFrieda, CEO of his namesake wholesale meat company Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors told FOX Business. “Of the 3,000 items we carry … we’re only missing one cut of beef that’s it, there’s a lot more media hype about processing facilities closings because of taking safety protocols.”

Pat LaFrieda, CEO of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.

Meat prices have gone up as a result of the temporary closures of at least 18 meat processing plants in the U.S.

Tyson Foods, the largest pork plant in the United States, reopened Thursday after a major coronavirus outbreak at its Waterloo, Iowa, facility that employs around 3,000 workers. And Smithfield Foods said its South Dakota plant would be fully operational again by the end of May.

Tyson, Smithfield and Cargill closed plants in April when workers contracted the virus. The closures have since prompted grocery stores, like Kroger and Costco, to start limiting how much meat consumers can get to prevent them from stockpiling because of the limited inventories.


Ticker Security Last Change Change %
TSN TYSON FOODS INC. 51.36 -0.19 -0.37%
SFD n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
BYND BEYOND MEAT INC. 9.09 -0.01 -0.11%
AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 147.42 +0.54 +0.37%

LaFrieda says his business has shifted from supplying meat primarily to restaurants to beefing up production for delivery to retail outlets like Shoprite, Amazon and Fresh Direct as more people are cooking from home during the quarantine.

LaFrieda, who also distributes plant-based meat from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, said the alternative meat market has also been increasingly in demand as consumers look for alternative proteins on shelves.

Impossible Foods, the maker of the plant-based burger and other meatless products that mimic the taste and texture of beef, announced earlier this week it was expanding into 1,700 Kroger grocery stores nationwide.  Kroger began selling the vegan burgers online and via curbside pickup and delivery on Tuesday.

And its rival, publicly-traded Beyond Meat sells its products in around 2,700 U.S. grocery stores across the country in stores like Albertsons, Glesons in California and Fairway Markets in New York City.