How is COVID-19 impacting the beef industry?

COVID-19 and the beef industry. (KOTA)
COVID-19 and the beef industry. (KOTA)(KOTA)
Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 4:45 PM MDT
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Social distancing is impacting many industries, but when it comes to ranchers, the isolation isn't causing much of a problem.

"From a social distancing standpoint, it couldn't have happened at a better time in Western South Dakota. A lot of us are calving right now, so we weren't going to go anywhere anyway," says the

President of South Dakota Cattlemen's Association,/a> Eric Jennings. Jennings says during calving season; social distancing isn't a problem; it's when the cattle go to market that ranchers may feel the impact. "Ranchers in Western South Dakota will market their cattle in the fall, probably August through November. So we haven't seen a lot of the markets' effect from that yet. Unless you happen to be working in the foodservice industry, there are some issues there." But Jennings believes COVID-19 could have a more significant impact on the beef industry as time goes on. And says some people are already feeling the pressure. "Four major packers are buying 80% of the fat cattle in the nation. So there is not a lot of price competition then. And those four packers buying 80% of the cattle can affect the price substantially," says Jennings. Jennings added that COVID came at a tough time for the beef industry because they were at a peak in the supply cycle. "Affect us for several years because it takes a long time to change the supply of cattle," says Jennings. And with packing plants slowing down because they're having trouble keeping their workers healthy, Jennings says it backups the supply. "Cattle that are in the feedlot that need to be going to harvest are having to not go to harvest, so they're getting fed longer. It cost the feedlot guys extra money to feed them longer, and it also decreases their value," says Jennings.