The Illinois Department of Agriculture is issuing important alerts regarding animal health and welfare, including directives for veterinarians. You can find that information here.
Pandemic Injects Volatility into Cattle & Beef Market
Rest assured, there is no shortage of meat in the US. Unfortunately, the pictures of empty grocery store aisles flooding social media are the result of a different problem: logistics. Meat at retail level on a typical day, was purchased by the retailer as many as three months before as they anticipate sales volume. This means, not a large volume of “unspoken for” meat exists in the market on a typical day because processors are working on “spoken for” meat sales. So when consumers were stockpiling and emptying meat cases, boxed beef cutout rose to never before seen levels as retailers raced to refill their shelves. This unprecedented buying pattern caused cattle futures to fluctuate in both directions -- while cash markets spun out of control. Find a detailed analysis on the beef market situation here.
The dairy industry is facing surplus supply due to the abrupt closure of schools and food service outlets. As processors work towards changing production options, some dairy farmers have been forced to dispose of milk. Due to this unprecedented situation, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is prepared to allow flexibility as a way to meet increased retail demand due to changes in supply. Initially, these provisions will be implemented from March-May as needed, with requests made to local Market Administrator. Provisions include allowing adjustments of shipping and/or diversion limits, lifting amount of milk a producer-handler can purchase from and outside Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO), and requiring any dumped milk to be reported with the FMMO.
Although there are reports of dairy farmers disposing of milk across the US, this has not yet become a widespread issue in Illinois. However, farmers who may be forced into this situation should be aware of regulations surrounding milk disposal in Illinois. Proper disposal procedures must be followed in order to avoid Clean Water Act liability, even during an emergency.
Monitoring Processing Disruptions
Due to the current situation with COVID-19, food processors including meat and dairy, are preparing workplaces via guidance from Department of Labor and Department of Health & Human Services, including developing COVID-19 specific business plans. In many cases, food processors are revisiting sick leave policies for employees and following CDC guidelines to prevent workplace exposure. Food processing plants with an employee that has tested positive for the disease will follow protocols set by state and local health officials. It is important to note there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging.