COVID-19 Meat Consumer FAQs

Updated 7/17/20

 As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, Midan Marketing has been keeping a pulse on meat consumers to understand their changing behaviors and perceptions of the meat industry. Our recent research highlighted the growing concern consumers have around the security and safety of the meat supply chain. To alleviate these concerns and ensure they know the facts, it is more important than ever to communicate and engage with consumers on these topics. Midan Marketing is focused on supporting our clients and the industry at large, and we have compiled responses to some of the more commonly asked questions from meat consumers. We hope this resource helps you navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. If you have questions or are interested in how to get started communicating with your consumers, contact us.

Q. Will there be more limitations put on the amount of meat I can purchase?

A. Most limitations on meat products at grocery stores have been lifted. Some consumers may still not be able to purchase a specific product, but for the most part, the supply has been replenished and should continue to be stable for some time. Even with all the changes the processing plants have implemented, they are nearly back to full capacity. While we can’t predict the future, we don’t anticipate any meat limitations in the near future.

Q. Can COVID-19 be contracted through meat or food packaging?

A. Recently, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn released a joint statement to clarify any questions you may have surrounding the safety of meat or food packaging. The statement reported there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted from food or food packaging. It’s important to remember the U.S. food safety system is the most comprehensive and highly regulated in the world. The statement issued is based on scientific evidence of how the COVID-19 virus is transmitted.

Q. What concerns are there about the new strain of swine flu?

A. A new strain of swine flu is being closely monitored by U.S. and international public health officials. Transmission is currently extremely limited. The flu is carried by pigs and has the potential to infect humans. However, there is no evidence that it can be passed from humans to humans.

Q. How are meat companies planning for a second round of COVID-19 in the fall/winter?

A. Through the pandemic and continuing today, meat processing companies are working with their employees to exercise safe practices at work and at home. This includes providing additional cleaning, sanitizing and protective equipment for employees. Like most businesses, processors are taking the learnings from the first round of the pandemic and making plans for any future issues that may arise, including an increase in illness. This includes ways to keep workers safe and healthy, quickly pivot the type of product manufactured while also continuing to provide meat for consumers to purchase at their preferred venue.

Q. Will farmers and ranchers be as impacted if the processing companies have to shut down again?

A. Farmers and ranchers have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other industries, they have had to adapt and develop ways to manage this crisis. Farmers and ranchers are resilient business men and women who will implement what they have learned and put it to work when needed. Providing safe, healthy, wholesome food for the world is their goal and they will continue to find a way to accomplish that goal.

Q. What changes have been made so I can purchase beef, pork or chicken directly from farmers?

A. In the U.S., the USDA oversees the processing of meat and all processing facilities must be inspected by the agency to ensure consumer safety. Oversight of meat processing facilities may be designated to state authorities by USDA. These plants must continue to operate at USDA inspection levels. Since the start of the pandemic, some idled processing plants have been reopened and are working to increase capacity to provide regional farmers and ranchers additional outlets to get their animals processed.

Q. Why is the U.S. importing cattle? Don’t we have enough?

A. The majority of imported beef comes from four countries – Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Recently, news outlets have reported the U.S. started importing beef from Brazil and Namibia. Importing beef from other countries only begins after extensive food safety and animal health standards set by the USDA are met. The majority of beef imported is lean trimmings that is used to make ground beef. These trimmings are needed because U.S. ranchers produce higher quality, more heavily marbled cattle. The lean trimmings are ground with the product from U.S. cattle to meet the ground beef demand we have in this country.

Q. Why are we exporting so much meat if there is a shortage in our own grocery stores?

A. Exporting meat does not cause a reduction in meat available in the U.S. Beef and pork exports actually have helped the meat industry get back to normal more quickly. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meat being exported was already under contract and in transit. The majority of products that are exported are generally not preferred by American consumers, including variety meats such as liver and tongue. In the pork industry, exports generally consist of whole and half carcasses and bone-in hams. Since these products require less processing, it helped relieve the labor issue in some pork processing plants.

Q. What can we do as consumers?

A. It’s important to continue to purchase the meat products you need and enjoy. The processing companies are diligently working to keep their employees healthy and the production system working – helping both shoppers and farmers and ranchers. Continue to follow safe food handling practices, including freezing meat and cooking to a safe internal temperature. Use this time to continue to try new recipes and ways to prepare your favorite cuts and even some new cuts.

Get additional COVID-19 Insights here.

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