Global meat industry reacts to coronavirus pandemic

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Global meat industry reacts to coronavirus pandemic

Related tags coronavirus Us Ireland Denmark Brazil Beef Lamb Livestock Packaging equipment & materials Pork Poultry Processing and packaging Innovation Processing equipment & plant design

The international meat industry has moved to try and maintain production as the coronavirus spreads throughout the world.

In Ireland, Irish Farmers Association national livestock chairman Brendan Golden said there was a “major onus on the meat factories to act responsibly on price in these unprecedented circumstances”​.

Golden said the factories had put increased safety protocols in place for the virus and it was essential that these were fully observed by all suppliers. 

Pork processor Danish Crown said the vast majority of employees met as scheduled for work on Monday morning (16 March) and that production was running at all factories, but it is now implementing a plan to have the necessary manpower in the coming weeks as well.

Per Laursen, production director at Danish Crown Pork said: “It's actually been a really good morning. Quietly, the slaughterhouses have announced that they are running as planned. The only bump in the road is at our largest slaughterhouse in Horsens, where our capacity for boning is down by about 20%, because some of our Polish employees have chosen to stay home in this situation.”

To maintain production in the coming weeks, Danish Crown is calling on people who have previously worked at a slaughterhouse to sign up.

“Our regular employees are stuck, but we have to prepare for the fact that we may also be affected by illness, so we are taking this step now. This way we can hopefully ensure that we can maintain the production and supply of food. I started out as a holiday substitute in my day, so if anyone out there who has experience working in a slaughterhouse, we would love to hear from them,”​ added Laursen.

Brazilian processor BRF said that it has established a ‘Permanent Multidisciplinary Monitoring Committee’ formed by executives and renowned specialists in the infectiology area, and that since then, several measures and protocols have been adopted in order to preserve the safety of all the people involved in its operational context, in addition to determine contingency plans to sustain its operations at normal pace.

It said: “BRF is operating normally at the moment, with the full functioning of its industrial facilities, distribution centers, logistics, supply chain and support offices, despite working temporarily and partially remotely in some of its corporate locations, not presenting any case of Covid-19 among its workers and any changes to its production, operation, and/or commercialization scheduling.”

The US beef industry appealed for unity and support in the face of the virus.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Colin Woodall stressed the impact of coronavirus on the US beef supply chain and urged co-operation.

“At this time, it’s impossible to measure the full effects of the virus or determine how it may continue to unfold. Although the full beef supply chain is being challenged by the outbreak, all segments of the industry are working closely together and must continue to do so. The current uncertainty facing beef producers is shared by all of agriculture and every American. By working together, we will overcome these obstacles.

“In addition to working within the beef community, NCBA is working closely with Congress, USDA and many other regulatory agencies to remove possible barriers to beef production. Our work in Washington, DC, will help keep the supply chain full and create the necessary food security required by consumers through the entirety of this event.  Consumer demand for beef remains strong, and producers across the industry remain ready to provide the safe, delicious, high-quality protein that’s required and desired around the globe.”

The United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) President Dr. Brooke Miller also called on the US Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to address the impact of the coronavirus.

“The actions that federal, state, and local government - along with private entities - are making to control the spread of the outbreak are the right decisions. We must continue to 'flatten the curve' to protect our loved ones at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“However, producers' bottom lines are suffering due to the effect the outbreak has had on the cattle and beef industries. We must act expeditiously to return normalcy to the cattle marketplace.  Fortunately, the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation can provide the needed programs and funding to address these rare and tumultuous incidents.

“USCA has created a special task force to address the market fallout as a result of the Coronavirus. These are uneasy times, but cattle producers can rest assured that the industry will get through this. This is the second major market disruption and producers need to know that work is underway to ensure the future is both stable and profitable. We will overcome and continue to produce a healthy and abundant food supply; while simultaneously serving as stewards of the environment and ensuring a thriving rural and national economy.”

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