Meat production has slowed, but there’s no shortage, local butchers say

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SAN DIEGO — The coronavirus pandemic has affected just about every industry, and most recently, the meat industry has taken a hit.

Some companies are placing limits on fresh meat purchases, but local butcher shops emphasized there’s no shortage of meat. Rather, the problem lies within the workforce after many people in packing departments contracted the virus.

“There isn’t necessarily a shortage in beef. What there is there is a shortage in where it can be processed so the way we can get the beef,” said Stevan Novoa, assistant butcher at The Heart and Trotter Butchery. He says the North Park company is feeling no pressure as signs of meat supply shortages start to show nationwide. “Distribution is down because they had to lay off a lot of workers.”

Jesse Larios, a cattle feeder, says with workers getting sick, production has not been at 100%. Right now, it’s a little more than half.

“These are people that have been on the front lines, feeding us through this tough time we’re going through, and been helping us put food on the table,” said Larios, who has been in the business for more than 20 years.

“People like myself have cattle ready to ship, but I can’t ship them if they can’t get harvested and going to the packing plant, there seems to be a a bottleneck,” Larios said. He guarantees there is no shortage of any kind of animal right now.

Butchery Quality Meats co-owner Brian Smith said the same. “There’s not a shortage anywhere of beef or chicken or pork,” he said.

Smith’s company has four locations throughout Southern California. He says they’ve been lucky so far and have remained well socket, but that doesn’t mean he has zero concerns. “Even though we’re working with these smaller farms and ranches and things have been good with them, they’re not immune. COVID can get into any of these plants and once that happens that’s where we’ll see the problems,” Smith said.

With the demand in meat increasing, so have prices. “We were quoted between $3.25 and $3.50 per pound of an entire animal. It’s now $7.50 … When we start getting charged more, sorry, but we can’t offer the same prices,” Novoa said.

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