While red meat production fell by nearly one-fourth during April, poultry slaughter dropped by a much smaller 8 percent, said the USDA’s monthly Poultry Slaughter report. Production of chicken, turkey, duck and other poultry meat totaled 4.09 billion pounds for the month, compared to 4.43 billion pounds in March.
Outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some meat processors to slow or close operations in April. The pandemic has punctured expectations of record-high red meat and poultry production this year. Instead, per-capita meat consumption is forecast at 217.1 pounds, 3 percent below 2019. Poultry accounts for nearly half of U.S. meat consumption.
At the same time it released the poultry data on Friday, the USDA said 11.2 million head of cattle were being fattened for slaughter during May, down 5 percent from a year ago. Cattle sold for slaughter during April fell by 24 percent from a year earlier, and “placements” – or cattle bought onto feedlots – was down by 22 percent from April 2019 and the second-lowest since records began in 1996. All were signs of disruption in the meatpacking industry caused the coronavirus.
According to day compiled by FERN, at least 55 meat industry workers have died and more than 17,000 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Friday at mid-day. At least 220 meatpacking and processing plants have had outbreaks.