Giving Compass’ Take:
• The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on meat production and pricing for products. However, farmers figured out strategies on saving animals longer so that it wouldn’t create too much of a backlog or further challenges for meat production.
• How did COVID-19 shed light on the issues in food supply chains? What problems still exist for meat production and food pricing?
• Read why the U.S. food systems needs a total rebuild after COVID-19.
First restaurants and school cafeterias closed, then COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants slowed processing. In the spring, shoppers started seeing signs declaring limits on the amount of fresh meat they could buy in one trip. Prices for some products crept up.
At the other end of the supply chain, feedlots and hog barns had market-ready animals with nowhere to go. Predictions were dire about the amount of meat that would never make it to the food supply because of animals that would be euthanized and disposed of on farms.
“There were some big numbers getting thrown around about how many pigs might have to be euthanized,” says Mike Paustian, a hog farmer in Walcott, Iowa, and the current president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, “and when it was all said and done that ended up being far, far fewer pigs than what a lot of people were expecting.”
Paustian credits swine nutrition researchers from Iowa State University for making recommendations for modifying the feed ration so that pigs could still eat freely but would not gain weight. This allowed farmers to hold onto animals that otherwise might have grown too big to be processed when the slaughterhouses re-opened.
But holding onto market weight-pigs creates a backlog as the smaller pigs grow to that size and need more space.
“We were very fortunate that we weren’t forced to euthanize any pigs,” Paustian said, “because we were able to find some old barns that were not being used and we were able to buy them from another farmer and get them remodeled quickly so we could get pigs in there. And that gave us enough extra wriggle room to get by.”
“To be quite honest, a lot of it is just pure stubbornness. Producers did not want to do that unless they were absolutely backed into a corner with no other options and could not properly take care of pigs anymore,” he said. “So in the end it ended up being, in my mind more of a bright spot than a real challenging period.”
Read the full article about meat production during COVID-19 by Amy Mayer at Harvest Public Media.
Interested in learning more about Food and Nutrition? Other readers at Giving Compass found the following articles helpful for impact giving related to Food and Nutrition.
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