California cattle ranchers held up by processing plant closures

California Connection

(KTXL) — California cattle ranchers say they are not the reason that shoppers have fewer beef choices at supermarkets.      

While it’s a busy time for them, ranchers are having a hard time getting beef to consumers.

Shoppers have had fewer choices of cuts in recent weeks as meat processing plants close following outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers.

“There’s no shortage,” said Dave Daley, the chair of the California Cattle Council. “There’s lots of meat. Our problem is the processing piece.”

With just a handful of large meat processors, a shutdown of a processing plant with hundreds of workers hinders cattle producers, as well as consumers.

“We have very limited processing facilities to get that to the consumer,” Daley told FOX40. “So I think this is a bottleneck.”

Although it is getting into barbecue season, local grocers say they are in no danger of running out of beef, although the selection of cuts may be limited. Some may find that there are more bone-in cuts than usual.

“Don’t be afraid of a bone. Don’t be afraid to try something different in that regard. Roast meats, stew meats is something that we’re also looking for,” siad Chelsea Minor, the corporate director of public affairs for Raley’s.

Some local producers say consumers may have to adjust to frozen meats.

“Which is perfectly fine as long as it hasn’t been thawed,” said Julie Morris of Morris Grassfed Beef. “That requires people to have a freezer, which many people don’t have a second freezer.”

The shortage means prices are slightly higher, which is frustrating for ranchers because they are not the ones who will benefit from higher prices at the register because processors are not accepting their cows.

“A lot of us are moving a lot of cattle this time of year,” Daley said. “It’s May, it’s a scary market for us. It’s a tough time for us.”

Daley said he wants workers in processing plants to be safe. That means cattlemen and consumers have to have some patience.

Cattle producers say they are better off than some pork and poultry farmers around the country, who have had to destroy animals because of the shutdowns of key processing plants.

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