U.S. beef output may take months to recover, National says


Tatiana Freitas, Bloomberg

via The Detroit News (MI) - May 19, 2020


American meat lovers probably will continue to pay higher-than-normal prices for beef as measures to mitigate the coronavirus risk keep U.S. plants below capacity for months.


That’s according to Tim Klein, who heads National Beef Packing Co., a major U.S. producer owned by Brazil’s Marfrig Global Foods SA. National Beef is now running at 85% capacity, compared with 100% a year ago and the current industry rate of 75%, he said Monday in a telephone interview.


“I do not expect that the industry will get back to anywhere near full capacity until at least the end of June, more than likely sometime July, August,” he said. “And we may not get back to the same levels because today we have fewer people on the production lines due to a separation of workstations and so forth.”


Klein spoke along with Marfrig CEO Miguel Gularte, who oversees South American operations, on a day the Brazilian meat giant reported a jump in first-quarter earnings before items amid higher sales and margins in the U.S. from a year ago. More than 70% of its revenues come from U.S. operations.


Here are some other highlights from the interview: U.S. beef processing margins should continue “well above” a year ago in the coming months amid strong demand and ample cattle supplies.


To protect staff, National Beef hired more people for cleaning and created a physical barrier to separate workers.


In South America, exports jumped 65%...