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Pandemic slows down beef supply line

As is it has done with most aspects of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the supply chain between the producers who raise cattle and the consumers who enjoy beef products.
Producers in southwest Minnesota said the pandemic has had little impact on their day-to-day operations. They’re feeding their cattle and preparing them for sale as usual. The problems and uncertainty begin once the cattle are ready to leave the farm.
“There is absolutely no meat shortage in this country,” said Jay Bakken, president of the Rock- Nobles Cattlemen’s Association who raises cattle west of Luverne. “What we have is a processing problem.”
Bakken said the pandemic has had two primary effects on the beef industry.
The first problem for the industry came when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz closed restaurants and schools back in March in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Bakken said over 50 percent of beef goes to food service, which includes restaurants and schools. When those consumers were removed, Bakken said it took a huge chunk out of the demand for beef. At the same time there was a large surge in demand for beef in grocery stores that the packaging plants could not keep up with.
Bakken said that’s because the supply chain was not set up to have one segment of beef consumer (food service) suddenly drop to zero percent and another (grocery stores) rise to 100 percent. Packaging and processing facilities and distribution lines were not able to immediately redirect all of the product to grocery stores.
“It’s hard to switch gears that fast,” Bakken said.

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