With the pandemic hitting the meat-packing industry, Iowa farmer Al Van Beek had nowhere to ship his full-grown pigs to make room for the 7,500 piglets he expected from his breeding operation. The disaster forced a decision that still troubles him: He ordered his staff to give injections to the pregnant sows, one by one, that may cause them to abort their baby pigs.
Van Beek and other farmers say they don’t have any choice but to cut livestock as they run short on space to house their animals or cash to feed them or both. The world’s largest meat companies – along with Smithfield Foods Inc, Cargill Inc, JBS USA, and Tyson Foods Inc – have stopped operations at about 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America since April as staff fall ill, stoking world fears of a meat shortage.
Van Beek’s piglets are victims of a sprawling food-business crisis that started with the mass closure of restaurants – upending that sector’s supply network, overwhelming storage and forcing farmers and processors to destroy everything from milk to salad greens to animals. Processors geared up to serve the food-service sector can’t instantly shift to supplying grocery stores.
Millions of pigs, chickens and cattle will be euthanized due to slaughterhouse closures, limiting supplies at grocers, stated John Tyson, chair of top U.S. meat supplier Tyson Foods.