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As various reports raised concerns over potential meat shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of a longtime Utah meat processor said Monday he expected prices to increase and for some meats to be in shorter supply in the weeks to come.
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Utah Company: Higher Prices, Harder-To-Find Pork Possible With Meat Shortages

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — As various reports raised concerns over potential meat shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of a longtime Utah meat processor said Monday he expected prices to increase and for some meats to be in shorter supply in the weeks to come.

“Two weeks ago I didn’t think it would affect the food chain,” said Ray Zaelit of Majestic Meat Co. “But with the plants getting the virus, and some of their employees, and sectioning them and spacing them out in the production lines, they’re not getting the production they need. So it’s a little scary right now for the supply of beef in the food chain.”

On Sunday, the chairman of Tyson Foods published an ad in the New York Times and other papers that claimed that “the food supply chain is breaking” because of plant closures related to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Subsequent reports have suggested production of meats may be off nationally by as much as 25 percent.

“I was reading today where they said that they’re going to (depopulate) the animals because there’s nowhere to go with them,” Zaelit remarked. “Some of these big plants — they’re the ones that have the problems. They’re not running at full capacity.”

Zaelit said prices were already up for beef due to demand at grocery stores.

He said pork was the most likely meat to be subject to shortages, but he acknowledged the supply of beef and chicken could possibly be impacted to at least some degree.

“These are times that we’ve never seen before. and so trying to figure it out and trying to get through these muddy waters — I don’t know, I don’t know where the answer is,” Zaelit said. “We’re doing everything we can to survive and keep it open. We’ve laid off a lot of people just trying to weather through the storm and it’s a tough situation, very tough situation.”

Zaelit said the third-generation business has traditionally catered to restaurant customers, but in the current landscape it has made the pivot toward retail and home deliveries.

“It’s a tough situation when you’re the generation that’s run into a problem like this, and you don’t foresee it and you can’t really prepare for it,” Zaelit said. “It’s something I never prepared for or thought I’d have to deal with it.”

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