The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has brought United States meat production to its knees.
In 2019, the US produced more than 103 billion pounds of beef, pork, and chicken, about a fifth of which was exported—both records for the nation. But as workers in several of the biggest US meatpacking plants have fallen ill with Covid-19, many production lines have been halted, changing the fortunes of meat producers in 2020 and even beyond. Daily slaughter rates have decreased by more than 25%, raising the specter of meat shortages and dampening US competitiveness in international export markets.
And with an eye on a weaker US meat system, meat producers in foreign countries have begun to make serious headway in selling their products to US-based consumers. If they succeed, it could wind up altering how Americans eat meat for decades, experts say.