Ontario’s beef farmers are feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 crisis and it is very likely you will at the grocery store. In a simple explanation, beef farmers and other red meat producers have too many animals.
With the shut-down of many processing plants because of COVID-19 outbreaks, it means they have to keep animals on their farms and not send them to be processed into meat that can be sold at stores.
Rob Lipsett, the President of the Beef Farmers of Ontario explains, “Some of the pork plants in Quebec or the beef processing plants in Alberta, workforce disruption has caused things to slow down and we are beginning to see live animals ready to be turned into beef starting to back up at the door at the door to the factory so to speak”
Lipsett says that means two things. For the consumer it’s an increase in demand that can’t be filled resulting in higher prices at the till or a shortage, “You could see limited supply at the grocery store shelf because the grocery stores are counting on full access to those meat products. If the processing plants can’t continue to provide that supply, they just can’t their hands on it to stock their shelves and if the supply is short the demand on price could increase.”
For farmers, it means that they have doubled their losses on each animal because now they have to keep them longer and feed them more. Losses per animal are in the range of $600. Lipsett says they are lobbying the government for changes in the cap and to fully fund the Risk Management Program (RMP), an insurance system that could help stem some of the loss. In a joint press release the Beef Farmer’s of Ontario, the Grain Farmer’s of Ontario, the Ontario Sheep Farmers and the Veal Farmers of Ontario said, “Fully funding the RMP will provide the essential security Ontario farmers need to continue to provide food for Ontarians and keep rural Ontario’s communities and economy strong during this time of crisis.”
While he does see some glimmer of hope, Lipsett says many farmers may soon have to make tough decisions about whether to stay in business or find another livelihood.
Lipsett says in order to help continue to let your MPP and MP know that you want to have a readily available supply of Canadian beef on store shelves and that you are proud to buy Made in Canada.