Supply chain disruptions linger for beef industry


Two years have passed since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the U.S., but problems the virus caused in the country’s grocery supply chain could remain well into 2022, which will likely mean higher beef prices for con­sumers.

Josh Maples, an agricul­tural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said labor reductions caused beef shortages, which have increased the price of this commodity across the country.

“Meat supply chains are complex, feature many stages and decisions, and include long production lags,” Maples said. “The animal supply chain starts when the decision to pro­duce that animal is made and ends when the meat is eaten by the consumer. A lot occurs between those two points, and disruptions can vary depending on which stage of the supply chain is impacted and also how severe it is.”

For Ethan Welford, a meat processor based in Lucedale, the first signs of disruption in his industry came in June 2020, when meat packing houses in the Midwest temporarily closed or reduced the num­ber of employees on each shift.

“They [meat prices] went so high that most of my local farmers were selling meat that was cheaper than what you could get at the grocery store if you could actually get meat at the grocery store,” Welford told a documentary crew with the MSU Television Center.

Since then, meat process­ing has moved closer to prepandemic staffing lev­els, but demand continues to outpace manpower and distribution, leading to higher prices at stores.

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