Consumers drive up protein demand in U.S. grocery stores

China saw the same issues, just months ahead of the rest the world, and is now starting to return to normal.


By Isis Almeida, Bloomberg

via National Hog Farmer -  Mar 24, 2020


The meat and poultry shelves at grocers are running empty from Australia to Italy and the U.S. But Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agricultural commodity trader, says look to China for hope of a brighter future.


Frenzied buying has taken hold in many parts of the world where people are being asked to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Consumers are loading up on meat supplies to fill their freezers. But demand from restaurants is poised to drop as dining rooms are closed under lockdown orders.


China saw the same issues, just months ahead of the rest the world. After a supermarket rush that left empty shelves, and then a decline in meat consumption from the restaurant industry, life in the Asian country is starting to return to normal, and so is meat demand, said Brian Sikes, head of Cargill’s protein and salt businesses.


“We are starting to see demand in China come back, and that’s encouraging for us, thinking about the rest of the world,” Sikes said. “There’s certainly going to be sunshine again.”


Cargill’s poultry processing factory in China is running at a rate of at least 80%, up from the lows of 30% to 40% during the worst of the outbreak, according to Sikes. People are back in the streets and going about their business. Plus, China’s now said it will allow transportation to resume for Wuhan on April 8, effectively lifting a mass quarantine on the city where the virus first emerged.


In North America, panic buying is still setting in and Cargill is running meat plants at full capacity and shifting its business to supply grocery stores, he said. Consumers are stocking up on chicken, beef and pork, driving up short-term demand, as cities from Los Angeles to Chicago and New York go into lockdown and restaurants close in a bid to stem the coronavirus pandemic...