COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processors may mean slim pickings at grocers

Meat may soon be harder to come by at your local grocery store or cost more, as more than 5,000 meat-packers are now hospitalized with COVID-19 - impacting the supply chain.
Analysts say we could start feeling the impact of the outbreaks at Midwest meat-processing plants by this weekend.
"I think we're talking about scattered shortages depending upon the region," says Urner-Barry senior Vice President Russell Whitman. Urner-Barry analyzes the meat and poultry industries, and Whitman expects a more limited selection and higher prices.
"Grocers are competing for a finite available amount of production. And the simple law of economics dictate that when that happens, prices go up," says Whitman.
President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order processing plants to stay open. Analysts say it'll be a while before the industry returns to full capacity - since so many workers are already sick.
Whitman says consumers' actions will impact the length of any scattered meat shortages.
"If we go out and decide to fill up our freezers like we did a month ago, then clearly there's gonna be some shortages that call for some creative marketing, likely limits on options, and things of that nature," says Whitman.
Jersey Mike's CEO Peter Cancro feels it could take longer than a few weeks for the food supply to fully return to normal.
"I think we'll be OK but it's gonna be a few months," says Cancro.
Medical experts say it appears the meat coming from any impacted plants remains safe to eat.
"There's no reason to think that COVID-19 is a foodborne illness," says Dr. Deena Amidoolam, of Mount Sinai Medical Center. "From the data that we have, this is a respiratory-borne illness."
Amidoolam does say to practice proper hygiene while preparing meat, such as washing hands during preparation and wiping down surfaces that may have been contaminated by meat.