Pork & Beef Production Nearly Back to Pre-pandemic Levels

Shoppers looking for their favorite cuts of meat should soon see plenty of them. Beef and pork production are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels after disruptions this spring when outbreaks of COVID-19 sent workers home and meat plants cut production. Farmers and feedlots had to leave animals on site longer than expected, but livestock economist Derrell Peel says now very few beef cattle remain backed-up.

“It’s taken the rest of the summer and here into the fall to sort of catch up,” Peel says. “I think we are largely caught up at this point, the indications are that we have largely addressed the backlog.” Most backlogged pigs have also made it to market. Despite estimates claiming millions of market-weight hogs might be euthanized and not reach the food supply, the actual numbers were much lower. Farmer Mike Paustian of Walcott, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, didn’t lose any of his hogs.

“There were some big numbers getting thrown around about what potentially, how many pigs might have to be euthanized,” Paustian says, “and when it was all said and done, that ended up being far, far fewer pigs than what a lot of people were expecting.” Paustian says he bought extra barns so he could house big pigs longer. He and others also changed the animals’ diets so they could eat without gaining weight. About 65,000 market-weight pigs were killed on farms in Iowa. Reports say two-thirds of those belonged to one company.