Beef shortage because of COVID-19 felt across the country, officials say

By | March 20, 2020

CALGARY — Officials in charge of maintaining beef supplies in Alberta and throughout Canada say they are working hard to maintain business continuity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

At a town hall meeting Friday afternoon, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) says it is thankful for the federal government’s support in keeping cattle and beef products moving back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the CCA, says “preparations are key” as the industry works through the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation.

“We are in continued contact with producers,” he said. “There is an extraordinary demand for beef products.”

He adds many producers have boosted production at their facilities to take place six days out of the week.

Shortages in products and workers

Many customers looking to fill their shopping lists as the pandemic has continued to intensify have been met with bare shelves in many grocery stores.

“Nobody saw it coming,” Laycraft says. “We certainly want to do everything we can. We are in literally daily contact with producers.”

It’s not just customers that are seeing shortages, but producers themselves are also feeling the pinch.

Janice Tranberg, president and CEO of the National Cattle Feeders, says there is a lack of workers at processing plants too.

“Access to workers is a big issue, so that’s why we’re asking the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program be amended.”

In June, the federal government said it was experiencing an increased number of applications and employers were facing waits of over 100 days to find out if their requests could be fulfilled.

She added they are also looking at the possibility of extending the work permits for existing TFW so processors can keep up with demand.

There is no timeline on when either of these requests could be met.

Further resources about the beef industry and the COVID-19 outbreak can be found on the CCA’s website.

(With files from the Canadian Press)

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