Should Canadians be concerned about a beef shortage?

As beef processing plants adapt to shutdowns and partial closures or processing reductions, the calls of “Will we run out of beef?” have begun.

Michael Young, president of Canada Beef, says that in the current scenario consumers will likely see out of stock coolers, which could encourage some panic buying, which makes the issue of stalled processing even worse.

Young says that supply is going to be down for a while, and retail prices will go up, and demand will continue — a scenario that could continue for some time as plants work through sanitization and social distancing measures at plants during COVID-19.

“As long as things happen the way we think they’re going to, I think we’re going to be ok,” Young says.

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All of this is happening even as Canada’s Prime Minister says beef needs to say home. But Canada Beef and the entire beef value chain has worked so hard to develop and service export markets — will the domestic market take precedence?

“You do have to look after your most important market, and our domestic market is our most important market,” Young says.  What’s more, he adds that supplying the domestic and international markets isn’t an either/or proposition. Plenty of what Canada exports are actually cuts that don’t have a home in Canada. Exports are a complementary outlet of processing the entire animal, rather than a full head-to-head competition for beef.

All told, Young says that processing and the entire global supply chain is in disarray, as everyone from producers, to processors, distribution, and retailers all adapt to this crisis. Still, Young believes Canadians will get the beef they demand, though the form and timeliness of it may be less dependable than we’re all used to.

 

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