DENVER (KDVR) — With meat suppliers shuttered or operating at reduced capacity, experts are warning a shortage of meat on grocery store shelves is imminent.
Nationwide, more than a dozen meat processing plants have had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks, including the JBS plant in Greeley.
That facility has since reopened, but with strict safety measures in place.
“When you first come in, there are supervisors who ask you how you feel, then your temperature is scanned and they hand you a face mask,” said a worker named Kary.
She says social distancing and a number of sick colleagues, has the plant operating at a reduced capacity.
“Friday, Saturday and yesterday, we had 1,000 cows to process, and that’s down from 2,400,” she says.
That lack of production has economists worried about supply in coming days.
“You’re going to see the meat cases empty,” says Brett Stuart. “We’re in unchartered water.”
Stuart is the president of Global AgriTrends, a Denver-based firm specializing in agricultural trade.
“We estimate that roughly 43% of our pork processing capacity has stopped,” he says. “And that’s from plants being closed, and plants running at slower rates because they’ve begun spacing out workers.”
Stuart says factories like JBS rely on human labor and that social distancing, while necessary, immediately reduces output.
“No. 1, they’ve got to ensure worker safety, and so they’re spreading out their spacing in the plants, which reduces the output,” he says.
Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced plans to sign an executive order, keeping meat processing plants open.