Monday, April 27, 2020

Problems in the meat supply chain

I don't often cover food production on the blog, but I didn't know the level of consolidation in the meatpacking industry. Via the New York Times (emphasis mine):
After decades of consolidation, there are about 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the United States, processing billions of pounds of meat for food stores each year. But a relatively small number of them account for the vast majority of production. In the cattle industry, a little more than 50 plants are responsible for as much as 98 percent of slaughtering and processing in the United States, according to Cassandra Fish, a beef analyst. 
Shutting down one plant, even for a few weeks, is like closing an airport hub. It backs up hog and beef production across the country, crushes prices paid to farmers and eventually leads to months of meat shortages. 
“Slaughterhouses are a critical bottleneck in the system,” said Julie Niederhoff, an associate professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University. “When they go down, we are in trouble.”
This virus is revealing all sorts of issues in supply chains. It will be interesting to see how supply chain management is taught in subsequent years... 

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