Meat, egg market uncertainty continues into 2021


By Ron Sterk, Meat+Poultry



KANSAS CITY, MO. — Just more than a year after the onslaught of COVID-19 in the United States, the markets most affected (which may be debatable) generally are operating at more “normal” levels but with a great deal of uncertainty about demand as the country and the world emerge from the throes of the pandemic.


The following is a brief recap of the impact of COVID-19 on egg and meat markets. Each was uniquely affected by the pandemic, with eggs affected more by demand but meat more by supply.


Beef and pork faced a much more dramatic scenario. Demand plunged when restaurants closed, and consumers bought more meat to cook at home. But the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came when many beef and pork processing plants, and to a lesser extent poultry processing plants, were forced to temporarily close as COVID-19 cases soared among employees.


At one point, nearly 40% of US beef processing capacity was offline, with pork not far behind. The marketing of millions of cattle and hogs was delayed, and store shelves quickly emptied even with buying limits in place.


Wholesale meat prices, as reflected by the US Department of Agriculture’s beef and pork cutout values, soared to historic highs...