$36.7 million in pandemic relief funding bolsters 150 Missouri meat, poultry processing businesses


By Joe Mueller, The Center Square

via Webster County Citizen (MO) - Sep 8, 2021


(The Center Square) – As COVID-19 outbreaks shut down large beef and poultry processing plants at the beginning of the pandemic, beef and poultry farmers looked for alternatives to sell their livestock. When consumers found empty grocery shelves and higher prices for beef, pork and chicken, they often started shopping at local processors.


Missouri's department of agriculture witnessed the pandemic-influence changes. It stepped in and provided $16.7 million in grants from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act to assist approximately 150 meat and poultry producers in adapting to the new market created by the pandemic. The Missouri legislature approved $20 million in federal funds from the CARES act to further assist processors.


The United States Department of Agriculture estimates Missouri’s cattle industry is $1.8 billion annually – about 3% of the nation’s market. Four companies – Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS SA and National Beef Packing – process about 85% of the nation's cattle as they are made into steaks, hamburger, roasts and other cuts of meat.


“When COVID affected the supply chain, people started looking for a local supply of meat,” said Kyle Whittaker, one of about 60 Missouri University Extension specialists assisting beef producers throughout the state. “Small processors were just inundated with requests. When hamburger approached $9 a pound during the pandemic, people started looking for a local source.”


The aim of the agriculture grant was improving the resiliency of the food supply chain. Processors with 200 employers or fewer could apply for funding for equipment, capital improvements and workforce assistance...