State Ag Secretary says Kansas is facing ‘lull in availability’ for meat products

Capitol Bureau

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – With several meat processing plants affected by coronavirus, meat is becoming hard to find and some grocery stores are even putting limits on how much a person can buy.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam said he has been talking to plant leaders multiple times a week.

“They confirmed that they are holding on, still able to be viable, running at less capacity, lower line speed, fewer employees,” Beam said of a call with three of the largest processors.

Many people noticed in March when the crisis began that some food was out of stock at stores. But that may have been due to people running to stores to buy up products. Processors also needed time to redirect food shipments from places like cafeterias to grocery stores.

Frozen storage helped keep the supply high since the initial struggle to find meat. Now, it’s harder to find items because processors are putting out less meat.

“We may have another wave of that,” Beam said. “Especially on the meat side because we’ve been going here for three weeks at least, with at least in Kansas plants at less capacity and some plants in other states have actually been shut down, so there will be maybe a little bit of a lull in availability.”

But he doesn’t believe it will last long.

“May not be the choice, your first choice of meat, the meat cut or type of meat, but within a few weeks, I would think that we would be back to more normalcy as far as availability of meat and other proteins,” Beam said.

Plants have put in new ways to keep clean and are trying to make sure workers are keeping their distance from one another. CDC workers inspected plants in late April. Plants are also bringing back close contact employees to help make sure production is high.

Beam also said smaller meat processors in rural communities are helping bring meat to Kansans across the state.

“They’ve been running strong, processing as many or more in this time frame,” Beam said.

He said smaller facilities haven’t seen the same problems with workers getting sick that larger processors have.

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