Beef and Pork Producers Facing Unprecedented Threat From COVID-19 Pandemic

Canadian livestock groups say producers are suffering since COVID-19 outbreaks have caused closures and slowdowns at meat-processing plants across the country.

A backlog of animals waiting to be processed has farmers paying more to maintain their inventory and considering culls of their livestock.

“There is a backlog, theres no doubt, on both the cattle and the pork side,” said Chris White, president of the Canadian Meat Council, which represents the processing plants.

White said temporary shutdowns at a Cargill plant in High River, Alta., and at an Olymel facility in Quebec, as well as a reduction to one shift at a JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta., has slowed down the processing rate.

“The issue is can you address some of the backups or a sufficient amount of the backup, so you dont have to do the humane culls? And thats the challenge right now,” White said.

While some industry groups estimate theres a backlog for processing of about 100,000 cattle, the situation is worse in the pork industry.

Gary Stordy with the Canadian Pork Council said the backlog in eastern Canada is at 140,000 pigs, and the loss to the industry this year could hit $675 million.

He knows of one hog producer who had to euthanize about 200 animals due to the pandemic backlog.

pigs
pigs
Pigs are seen at the Meloporc farm in Saint-Thomas de Joliette, Quebec, Canada, on June 26, 2019. (Sebastien St-Jean/AFP via Getty Images)

“They dont take this lightly and thats why theres incredible efforts to stop that from happening,” Stordy said.

He said the industry produces about 23 million hogs per year. And since hogs mature faster than cattle, theyre ready for market quicker and producers arent able to keep them indefinitely.

“When animals are ready to go to market, theyre actually starting to grow at a very fast rate. And if you hold onto animals longer than you should, then youre not able to go through normal processing facilities.”

He said when animals are euthanized, the meat cant always be eaten.

“Thats the worst case scenario for everybody thats involved.”

Feedlots, which buy younger cattle and feed them until theyre big enough to send to processing plants, are also feeling the pinch.

“We were pretty close to the worst case scenario,” said Janice Tranberg, president of the National Cattle Feeders Association.

“Is there opportunity for us to catch up … once we get going again? If we arent, the question is going to be how do we catch up?”

Tranberg said 150 feedlots in Alberta have between 1,000 and 5,000 head of cattle ready to go to slaughter. Many are putting animals on maintenance rations to slow their growthRead More – Source