There’s Plenty of Meat in America — For Those Who Can Afford It

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While many regular American grocers are running out of meat, specialty food producers have plentiful supplies — for those who can afford it.

Production of luxe varieties like heritage pork, grass-fed beef and Amish-raised chicken are expanding at a time when coronavirus outbreaks at mammoth plants operated by Tyson Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. have wiped out about 40% of conventional U.S. beef and pork capacity in recent weeks.

So while lower-income consumers are finding meat hard to come by — with Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. rationing purchases — richer Americans have their pick of fancy offerings that often cost twice as much, or more.

This is just the latest way that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a socioeconomic divide in America, disproportionately affecting low-income and minority populations more than others. In the end, it could dictate who has access to affordable meat and who doesn’t as outbreaks at the nation’s beef, pork and poultry plants spread.

“There’s definitely an opportunity there for niche markets to emerge as a bigger component” of what consumers are buying, said McGuireWoods Consulting Senior Vice President Ryan Bernstein, who also operates a family farm in North Dakota. But for lower-income families, there will be a “two-fold problem. There are issues on price and availability. And of course, if you have a lower income, you are more sensitive to price changes.”

The U.S. meat crisis is highlighting a variety of social divides. Plant workers represent some of the populations facing a disproportionate hit from the health crisis and its economic fallout. They often come from low-income families and can’t afford to call out sick, and about 44% of them are Hispanic and a quarter are African Americans, a demographic seeing a devastating toll both physically and financially. – READ MORE

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