Concern is spreading among Arizona ranchers as meatpacking plants across the country continue to close, with workers falling ill with coronavirus.
Several meat processing facilities have closed across the country in recent weeks. Ranchers told ABC15 this has created an oversupply of livestock, which has led to a sharp decrease in cattle prices and has threatened profits.
“There are a lot of ranchers out there, ourselves included, that run on really slim margins,” said Selwyn Justice, with Justice Brothers Ranch in Waddell. “A market disruption like that can put a lot of that in pretty serious danger.”
Justice told ABC15 per-pound prices he’s able to get at market for his cattle have declined significantly in recent months.
“Our last black Angus prior to this went for about $1.17,” Justice said. “Now that same cow would sell for about 90 cents.”
The U.S. is edging closer to possible meat shortages with another major plant taken off line.
About a quarter of American pork production and 10% of beef output has now been shuttered, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers, which estimates that 13 U.S. plants have seen closures.
On Thursday, Tyson Foods Inc. said it was shutting its beef facility in Pasco, Washington, fresh on the heels of the company idling two key pork plants. Case counts are continuing to mount, including in Canada, where industry groups are saying they’ll probably hold back some supplies usually exported to the U.S. And the head of JBS SA, the world’s top meat producer, is warning of shortfalls.
Meanwhile, 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have tested positive for the coronavirus. The workers, part of the Food Safety and Inspection Service that employs about 6,500 inspectors, have been traveling between plants with known infections to other facilities. And at least one inspector has died after apparently contracting Covid-19, according to information the federal agency provided Thursday during a phone call with consumer groups.