A food supply chain expert said beef prices won’t skyrocket, despite the novel coronavirus causing several major meat processing plants to close and reduce staff.
On Sunday, Cargill announced its plant in Chambly, Que., would close after a COVID-19 outbreak among staff.
The closure comes about a month after the company had to shut down a major facility in High River, Alta., after more than 900 employees were diagnosed with COVID-19.
That plant, which handles about 70 per cent of all meat processed in the country, has since reopened, but JBS and Harmony Beef, other processors, have also shuttered plants and reduced staff to stop the spread of the virus.
Even though the country’s supply of beef has apparently been bottlenecked, Dalhousie University’s Sylvain Charlebois said prices wouldn’t be seriously affected.
“And they’ve already gone up by, I would say, at least four or five per cent already.”
He told Global News there are a number of reasons why prices won’t dramatically jump up.
First, McDonald’s Canada, a major customer of the High River plant, has started importing beef. He said that would relieve some pressure on the plant and the smaller workforce would be able to cope.
He also said any significant jump in prices would convince consumers to buy more chicken, reducing the demand, and therefore the price, of beef.
He also noted the federal government regulates the major processing plants and that the provincially regulated abattoirs are still open.
Jordan Lohneis owns The Pig and Pantry Craft Butchery in Saskatoon and uses provincial abattoirs.
He said he only buys from Saskatchewan producers and his prices haven’t been affected.
The meat processed in the major plants mostly goes to larger restaurants and grocery stores. Lohneis said he focuses on local connections.
Lohneis said his business is largely unchanged, though he’s seeing regular customers buy more product and shop less frequently.
He said he’s even seeing new customers, though Charlebois warned that may change in the coming years and that it could affect more than just prices.
He said the wasted milk and talk of euthanizing livestock could cause Canadians to reevaluate their eating habits.
With files from Hannah Jackson, Rachel D’Amore and the Canadian Press.
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