As coronavirus outbreaks shut down or reduced production at major U.S. and Canadian meat processing plants, farmers scrambled to find alternatives, and consumers feared grocery stores would run out.
As is the case with much around the coronavirus, this shift created winners and losers. Small, independent slaughterhouses found themselves booked through the spring of 2021.
Business picked up so dramatically at these small operations that they turned away farmers and rationed sales.
“People are going mad trying to fill their freezers,” said Tom Keller, who owns a processing operation in Litchfield, Ohio, where they have limited sales of ground meat to five pounds per person.
In March, Keller’s plant slaughtered 104 cattle, twice the rate a year earlier.
In Alberta, Canada, farmers and consumers are reacting to reduced production at plants owned by Cargill and JBS SA. Feedlots are being turned away by the big plants, which have a backlog of cattle.
The development has led to a more-than-doubling of the number of pigs processed at least one smaller operation in Alberta in March and April.