COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — If you’ve been at the grocery store lately, you may have noticed the store is out of select cuts or kinds of protein like beef and pork. But our farmers and grocers want to reassure you that it’s not the time to start panic buying meat.
But what is causing this lack of inventory?
“It’s really a function of a choke point that we see happening throughout the supply chain,” explained Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Beef Council.
Harsh explains that there is not a “shortage” of our livestock, we’re just having a back log in the processing plants right now.
“As packing plants make sure they’re putting worker safety at first and foremost, it’s slowed down their production. They take less cattle in and send less beef out of the door. So it’s really just a question of how fast we can process, and that’s much slower right now. Sometimes as much as 50% less than what we usually see,” noted Harsh.
Smaller, local farms like Blystone Farms had to shut down their online ordering systems because not only can they not keep up, they are running out of manpower to help with this surge.
“I think, at first, it started because there wasn’t anything on the shelves at the grocery store,” said Jane Blystone.
While the Blystone Farm is doing well, other farms that can’t process their own livestock are really struggling.
“Cattle are backing up on the farm, and that further depresses the prices for cattle,” said Harsh.
These farmers have a backlog of animals waiting to be harvested. Not only are they losing money by not processing them quickly, they have to continue to feed and take care of them until they leave.
“Our cattle farmers are actually getting hit financing because of what’s happening at the packing plant,” said Harsh.
Joe Blystone wants consumers to know that stores are open, farmers are still working and everyone is doing what they can to get food on the table.
“So buy what you need for that week and think about your neighbor. We are seeing some shortages, but it’s sporadic and varies from retailer to retailer,” reiterated Harsh. “I think it’s important for consumers to know we have plenty of cattle supply. It’s a question of when can we get those animals harvested to eat.”
Harsh says production and processing plants are now following CDC guidelines and now have guidance with how to proceed moving forward. She says shes not sure how long it will take to clear out the backlog, but it could be a few months from now.
Megahnn Winters from the Ohio Pork Council also says that its important not to panic at the grocery store. She says its a good time to explore new options with pork and even beef that is available.
“Consumers can rest assured that the food and agriculture industry is doing everything they can to serve wholesome food during this unprecedented time. According to economists, we have enough pigs to meet the demand for pork,” explained Winters. “However, because of disruptions in the supple chain, consumers may start to see difference in price and availability of pork prices.”
She also says it’s important for consumers to remember if something isn’t available in the store today, it may be in the coming weeks or days.