Midwest farmers struggle as meat processing plants close due to COVID-19

Meat prices in Minnesota are stable now, but one state official anticipates that consumers could see higher prices in the grocery aisles.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants in the Midwest are causing some disruptions, and officials say many farmers are having a difficult time right now. As a result, it could lead to higher meat prices and less selection for consumers.

“For now, our food supply is stable," said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson. "Our consumers will see some disruptions as they have and they may see some higher prices. It will become more pronounced depending on how long we’re in this situation with COVID-19."

In just the past few weeks, coronavirus outbreaks have forced at least three Minnesota meat processing plants to close. The closures mean some farmers have to euthanize their livestock. Currently, there are efforts underway to find homes for somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 pigs a week.

“It’s a tremendous impact. It’s very difficult for our farmers, for our farm communities," Peterson said. "The decision to euthanize animals is not done easily and it’s very emotional."

Peterson also said the eating habits of people during COVID-19 are changing, with people eating at home 80 percent of the time.

On Monday, a group of state Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to President Trump urging immediate action to prevent major disruptions to the food supply, farm bankruptcies and job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.