Meat providers feeling strain of panic-buying due to worker shortage at processing plants

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 19:21:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Meat markets, meat distributors and farmers say people should not panic about the meat supply.

Worker shortages at meatpacking plants due to COVID-19 and a surge of panic-buying is putting a strain on meat providers.

KC Cattle Company out of Weston is feeling that strain. Many of their wagyu beef products are selling out within a couple hours.

"Our supply chain is probably a little better-off because we use the smaller processors. So they're less population dense, so less chance of COVID-19 walking through their front door," said Patrick Montgomery, owner of KC Cattle Co. "In that aspect, we've been pretty blessed. On the other side, we can't keep up with demand right now."

There are enough animals, just not as many workers to process them. That's why bigger grocery stores such as Hy-Vee decided to limit purchases.

"There's also the alternative of helping out your farmers who are really taking a beating from the commodity market in the last six weeks because of COVID-19," Montgomery said.

Smaller markets are now seeing more customers because the grocery stores are wiped out.

Bichelmeyer Meats in KCK said they are stocked, however it's still a stressful time.

"We see a reduction in price off the farm, but yet we see an increase in price from the packing industry," said Joe Bichelmeyer, owner. "And this is one of the things that is difficult to understand from my point of view."

Bichelmeyer has had to raise beef prices, but not pork.

Normally, they'd provide half and quarter beef cuts and half hogs. Limiting purchases is something they've never had to do.

Shoppers may have to change up their shopping habits to get through this.

"We are requesting people buy maybe a couple of weeks supply, no more," Bichelmeyer said.

Montgomery said they are upping their supply next month. Until then, he encourages people to seek out those smaller processors and local businesses if people decide they need a side of beef.

"That's kind of a temporary fix," Montgomery said. "I kind of think things will be back to normal within the next month in the grocery stores."