COVID-19 impacting meat supply

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 5:24 PM CDT
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Experts at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, a world-renowned agricultural development organization at Texas A&M University, warn that the meat supply chain in the United States has been disrupted by COVID-19.

That disruption is being felt in the Brazos Valley. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 4,913 workers in 19 states including in Texas have tested positive for coronavirus and that's impacting operations.

"There’s a disruption of the system that transforms the raw farm commodities into the food that we actually eat. So this disruption, it's affecting processing and distribution sectors," said

Eric Brenner, Program Coordinator for Latin American and Caribbean Regions at the Borlaug Institute.

The institute is studying supply chain problems and trying to improve them.

“We feel it’s going to take some time," said Roger Norton, Regional Director for the Latin American and Caribbean Region at the Borlaug Institute.

"We are very aware of course of supply chain issues and seeing some things change because of the coronavirus pandemic," he said.

Experts there said addressing the food supply problem is complicated after COVID-19 put the world in crisis.

"Since this was worldwide the distribution channels are not designed to fix this kind of problem on a worldwide basis," said Rodrigo Chavez, a Project Manager for the coffee project in Central America at the Borlaug Institute.

"What we're seeing is something really odd because usually, we see an emergency or something happening to a very localized area or city in which it can properly be fixed within a matter of hours or days," said Chavez.

Local fast-food chains are starting to feel the pinch too. KBTX was able to still order hamburgers at Wendy's in Bryan, but the chain had a sign in their drive-thru talking about issues with their supply chain.

“There's plenty of animals out there right now to be harvested. The problem is getting the workers into the plants to harvest those animals," said Terry Smith, Ruffino Meats Senior Protein Buyer.

He said they are seeing challenges in meeting their customer's needs.

"So far we’ve done a really good job being able to cover what the consumers are needing," said Smith. "If people will buy what they need right now and not overbuy everybody can have a little bit and as the animals start coming back through the system,the shelves can get restocked," he added.

If you've been to the grocery store recently you may have noticed changes in the meat section.

At Kroger in Bryan Wednesday, new signs asked customers to limit chicken, pork, and ground beef purchases to two packages each.

“I can see it as being a problem," said Betty Madura of Wheelock. She was just finishing her grocery shopping.

For Madura, it's another adjustment to make.

"We just kind of deal with it as it comes," she said.

Experts at the Borlaug Institute worry there will be other supply chain issues in the coming months for products imported from Latin American including coffee and certain produce.