As slaughter numbers decline, pork prices rise

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at meatpacking facilities across the United States have shaken the livestocks markets, harming both producers and consumers. 

As of May 4, there have been at least 9,300 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities at at least 164 plants in 27 states, and at least 40 reported worker deaths at 21 plants in 15 states, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting’s database. In response, facilities have closed or scaled down production, leaving farmers without a market to sell their livestock. Hog commodity prices have dropped, and at least 2 million animals have been euthanized. Lee Schulz, associate professor of agricultural economics at Iowa State University, shared his expertise on the pork industry with the FarmDoc Daily Webinar at the University of Illinois. Here are three takeaways from his presentation Friday morning:

Problems are happening because of set infrastructure

Fifteen meat processing plants slaughter 62 % of the hogs each year, and 27 plants slaughter 86.5 % of the hogs each year.

USDA inspector dies as coronavirus spreads in meat packing plants.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector tasked with ensuring safe food quality at meat processing plants died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, a source who was on a call in which the federal agency confirmed the death told USA TODAY.

Amid pandemic uncertainty – meat shortages, livestock slaughter and a freezer full of food

Grocery stores may soon face meat shortages. Hogs and chickens are being euthanized. Cattle are being put out to pasture. And America’s storage freezers have more ground beef, chicken breasts and legs, french fries and onion rings than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the United States’ supply chain, having wide-ranging results that will likely hurt both farmers and consumers, but could result in wider margins for America’s largest food companies.