Meat shortage fear sparked by panic shopping, stores feeling the impact

We are all aware of the coronavirus causing a toilet paper shortage - now meat might be the next hardest thing to find at the grocery store.

With some stores limiting purchases and others forced to raise prices - big and small businesses are all being impacted in some way. 

“It's insane,” said Mary Bracey, Pure Pastures. “We've had to lock the doors and have people wait outside. That has never happened."

With locations in Dearborn and Plymouth, Pure Pastures is an organic store selling meat from local family farms. When sit-down restaurants closed, this business more than doubled. 

"People are panicking,” Bracey said. “And they want to get as much meat as possible. I have people calling and asking for whole cows and 50 pounds of chicken - that is not what we do."

That panic buying is what Michigan Beef Industry Commission says we should not be doing. 

"What happened with toilet paper, we don't need that to happen with food products, specially like beef,” said George Quackenbush, executive director

And here is why this is happening. Processing plants across the country are seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 cases to employees. 
For example, one meat processing plant in Texas has 240 confirmed cases. So in order for large scale operations to take proper safety measures. like Plexiglas dividers and proper PPE, plants are temporarily shutting down disrupting the supply chain. 
In other words, the meat is there, it just can’t be processed. 

"That's what is causing a backlog a bit in the livestock industry in terms of getting the livestock processed," Quackenbush said.

"The plant closures are a real thing and our supply is here, but the prices are skyrocketing," said Tony Selvaggio, Western Market Ferndale, co-owner.

At Western Market in Ferndale there is enough for everyone. 
"Generally our customers aren't resellers so we don't limit any product and thankfully we aren't short yet," Selvaggio said.

Other stores like Costco, and some select Meijer and Kroger stores are limiting purchases due to delays in getting the product. 
But across the board from the mom and pop's, and cattle industry - the advice is, don’t panic. 

"We are very confident that there is plenty of beef in the system, plenty of beef in storage to supply consumers during this time," Quackenbush said.

Owners of farm to table stores say if there is a silver lining in all of this, Bracey said people are paying attention to where their food is coming from and that’s good news for family farms in the long-term.  

Some ask, why not cut out the large scale meat processing plants and using local processors and butchers temporarily? Many are doing that, but if you order meat like a whole cow, the wait could be up to a month.