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Red meat production plunged in April due to COVID-19

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reporting that meatpackers across the country were operating at roughly three-fourths capacity in April as outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some of the country’s largest meat plants to close temporarily.

But the USDA says production during May has increased but there remains the risk a resurgence of the virus hangs over the industry.

The USDA recently lowered its 2020 meat forecast by nearly 5 billion pounds, mostly in beef and pork, “as the sector adjusts to Covid-19 and economic uncertainty.”

The USDA in its monthly Livestock Slaughter report said that packing plants produced 3.86 billion pounds of beef, pork, veal, and mutton during April, 1.1 billion pounds less than in March, a drop of 23 percent.

“We’ve shown significant improvement in processing numbers over the past several days,” said Jayson Lusk, a Purdue University meat expert.

“In early May, we were running about 40 percent below 2019, and now we are ‘only’ about 15 percent below last year’s numbers in beef and pork.” Wholesale meat prices, which spiked as retail supplies of meat tightened, “are coming off some all-time highs. In short, we’re seeing significant progress,” said Lusk.

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