Although several meat processing facilities in Canada and the U.S. have closed or are reducing production because of outbreaks of COVID-19 among staff, a University of Guelph food economist says he does not expect meat shortages in the near future.
Prof. Michael von Massow, a food economist with U of G’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, says recent closures and production slowdowns are unlikely to have a significant effect on meat availability in North American grocery stores
“We have an abundance of packaging capacity in North America, which will buffer the closure of individual processing facilities or the reductions of production,” he said.
Von Massow, who studies the structure and performance of food supply chains, noted Canada and the U.S. have a well-integrated meat processing system in which beef and cattle move both ways across the border. So if individual plants close, there is enough inventory in the system to buffer those closures.
However, there will be effects borne by meat producers, he added.
They will either have to scramble to find alternative processors and incur the costs of shipping their product further or choose to hold their animals — despite higher feed costs — until their usual plant reopens.
Most of these packing plant closures tend to be short, von Massow said, noting a closed plant in Quebec has already reopened. But if more plants close and stay closed for long periods, we might start seeing more significant disruptions in the system, he added.
“We don’t anticipate this happening,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any significant meat shortages at the meat counter at grocery stores in North America.”
Von Massow provides further thoughts in the video below. He is available for interviews.
Prof. Mike von Massow