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How Coronavirus Has Disrupted The Meat Supply Chain In The U.S.

Meat supply chains in the U.S. have been severely affected by the coronavirus. In particular, the most hard-hit industry within the food supply chain was meat processing. Since numerous workers have tested positive for COVID-19 on multiple meat plants across the country, the entire supply chain was disrupted.

What is going on with the meat plants?

At the end of April, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the largest meatpacking association in the U.S., has stated that 20 industry workers have died because of the virus, and more than 5,000 were infected or hospitalized. Meat plants were forced to shut down, as they have become the cluster of infection, which caused a lack of meat supply to retailers. According to UFCW, the factories’ closure resulted in a 25% drop in pork slaughter and a 10% drop in beef production.

How has the coronavirus disrupted the meat supply chain?

The issue became known nationwide, which has resulted in panic-buying among consumers, with all the meat products being sold out from grocery stores, fast food, restaurants, and supermarkets. The retailers have responded with setting up purchasing limits to stop overbuying. Now, with multiple meat processing plants being shut down across the country, farmers don’t have a place to sell their products. With high supply and high demand, meat supply chains suffer from a severe disruption in the processing sector.

The U.S. has the largest rate of meat consumption per capita, which clearly means a crisis in the meat supply chain can’t go unnoticed. The issue became so critical that the White House initiated the Defense Production Act to ensure the proper supply of meat in the stores.

What is wrong with America’s food supply chains?

Apparently, the disruption of the meat supply chain appears to be solely an American issue. In Europe, which has also been hard hit with the impacts of the pandemic, there are no signs of meat industry disruption. Why is that? In fact, the trouble with the U.S. meat processing industry is that it is extremely centralized and consolidated, while in the UK or Italy, meat vendors are usually small, local, and independent companies.

The monopoly of certain companies, like Tyson Foods Inc., which accounts for almost two-thirds of the entire meat processing in the U.S., has made meat supply chains hardly dependent and interconnected. Eventually, this is the reason for also making it extremely vulnerable to the damage. Hopefully, the industry will drift towards building a more resilient supply chain to prevent such a situation in the future.

The Main Challenges of Food and Beverage Shipping

Working in the food industry is incredibly exciting and diverse, however, it can be a very complex sector. Food supply chains involve an endless number of processes, and unraveling them is quite a challenge. Especially, food and beverage shipping.

The food and beverage sector is tightly connected with logistics and transportation. People are constantly searching for food items and fresh produce at stores all across the world. This means that the demand for fast and reliable food shipping is higher than ever.  

Apart from time sensitivity, food supplies are extremely sensitive to spoiling. Perished products can easily lead to food poisoning and other effects of eating spoiled meals. Apart from money losses, departed products can get companies in huge trouble. Food suppliers and retailers have to constantly ensure security, quality, and authenticity of products. Food scams are estimated to be a $40 billion annual issue (let’s not forget the Horsemeat scandal). This means that strict administration of product quality at every stage of transit is critical. Handling safe transportation of food from the farm to the shelf requires rock-solid control.

Food retailers face numerous challenges while doing their job and have a large responsibility to meet the highest quality standards. Well-planned transportation helps to avoid these damage disruptions.

Here are the main challenges of food and beverage supply chains:

Trace-ability and visibility

One of the major undertakings in food supply chains is the ability to track and trace the location and condition of products. More and more customers pay attention to the product origin country, eco-labels, and other signs that increase visibility and guarantee authenticity. For example, the survey by the Marine Stewardship Council conducted that 66 percent of respondents consider trace-ability a primary factor in seafood purchase decisions.

Communication within the supply chain

Arranging efficient communication and collaboration in food and beverage retail is very complex. Primarily, because of the fragmented nature of the supply chain. With so many parties involved, it’s hard to set a linear string of communication, because many suppliers and food producers are located around the globe. If possible, it’s better to narrow down your suppliers’ list to those you can really trust. This will benefit both your company and your consumers. Additionally, you can use new technologies for strict product monitoring and auditing to avoid any disruptions.

Quality control and maintenance

Surely, with all the links involved in the chain, it’s important to ensure a smooth, well-organized, fast delivery. While many cases of food perishing takes place because of late delivery, other causes can include poor storage conditions, messy warehousing and inventory that affects the product quality. That’s why strict tracking of product condition is crucial for eliminating supply chain disruptions.

How can logistics companies help?

Since food supply chains are very complex, many companies outsource their logistics operations. Third-party logistics companies have experience in the industry, and can efficiently manage your transportation. Especially when it comes to shipment tracking, 3PLs step into the game with their capable resources for tracking and tracing your loads. Additionally, 3PLs can arrange smooth communication and execute tedious manual operations for you.

PLS Logistics Food and Beverage Shipping

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