Since early April, COVID-19 infections among the animal processing plant labor force have disrupted beef, pork, broiler and turkey production in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest “Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Outlook” outlined the slaughter declines, noting that each meat category showed a year-over-year decline.
USDA estimated pork production in April at 2.3 billion lb., down more than 11% from a year earlier, as hog processing plants in several states reduced throughput or were shuttered due to COVID-19-related labor shortages.
USDA estimated federally inspected beef production in April at about 1.8 billion lb., which was almost 21% lower than the volume produced in April 2019.
On the poultry side, COVID-19 contagion of poultry processing plant employees caused year-over-year reductions in both broiler and turkey production. Estimated April 2020 broiler production, at 3.27 billion lb., was 2% below production in April 2019. Turkey production fell even more sharply -- by 8.3% year over year -- to 420 million lb.
Numerous industry sources have reported that processing capacity has improved from the worst days in April; however, labor issues are expected to continue to affect processing levels in the coming months.