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Bottleneck at U.S. Slaughterhouses Creates Problems for Livestock and Grain Farmers

The economic fallout from COVID-19 has resulted in huge shifts in distribution and supply chains - away from restaurants, stadiums, and schools etc. toward retail - something that has been a huge challenge for meatpackers and processors focused on supplying the foodservice and hospitality industries, and on grain producers.

But now retail supplies of meat are under pressure as the spread of COVID-19 has caused the closure of about 20 U.S. slaughterhouses accounting for roughly half of all meat processed per year. And the sudden oversupply and lack of markets has seen producers needing to cull animals, dump milk and eggs, and plow under vegetables.

Daily slaughter in the mid-week of April was down 26 percent for hogs and 29 percent for cattle, according to the USDA, compared to the same week in March. These numbers were also down by 22 percent and 29 percent respectively compared to the same week a year before. Likewise, as of April 1, 11.3 million head of cattle were on feed at feedlots for the slaughter market - down 5.5 percent from April 1, 2019, and down 4 percent compared to March 1, 2020 - the largest one month drop ever recorded.

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