LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The closing of several large processing plants like Tyson’s and J.B. Swift due to the coronavirus has launched the nation into a meat shortage. Even though some plants are now reopening, the effects of their temporary closures can be seen here in Southwest Louisiana. Hackett’s Cajun Kitchen which used to sell plate lunches just closed recently and restaurants that are still open like Paul’s Rib Shack are having difficulties getting supply.
“I just cannot get brisket,” said owner, Paul Pettefer. “I can’t get ribs, I can’t get pork shoulder. I couldn’t get poultry some weeks.”
Even if restaurants and even suppliers like Freshko Food Corporation get meat, they usually have to premium.
“Three weeks ago, I can tell you my ground meat has basically almost doubled in price," said Jimbeaux Guilbeaux, owner of Freshko Food Corporation. "I do a lot of Hispanic restaurants and they use a certain type of meant and that’s jumped up from probably like $4 a pound, to like $8 a pound.”
According to the Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Mike Strain, the lack of supply and the premium prices are going to last some time as the processing plants get back to normal.
“Whenever you have a supply chain disruption, think about the links of a chain, right? If one link breaks, the whole chain becomes dysfunctional and that’s what’s happening," Strain said. “If we do not have an uptick in the number of COVID cases, if we can stay where we are at now and level off, I would expect probably in the next six to eight weeks we can get back to normal. But, of course, if we see a surge in the number of cases, I think that all bets are off.”
Commissioner Strain said that there is a local interest to open small meat processing plants and we will see them within the next twelve months.