FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Renewed coronavirus restrictions at meat processing plants have led to concerns a meat shortage may be on the horizon.
Pork, chicken and, more likely, beef may be hard to find on grocery store shelves as the labor pool becomes a concern.
“There’s two processors that have recently asked all their employees to become vaccinated,” said John Federspiel, owner of Feder’s Meats. “That kind of scared off a lot of their employees.”
One of those processors is Tyson Foods, which said they are the first and largest food employer to require vaccines for their workforce. The company has said around half of its 120,000 person workforce is already vaccinated.
According to Federspiel, mandates like that are exacerbating an already existing problem.
“It’s hard to find employees to work and to show up in this in this economy and so it’s already an issue,” Federspiel said.
This is not even the first meat shortage scare stores have had since the start of the pandemic. However, Feder’s Meats has been largely unaffected by these scares because of a supply change they made just weeks before the pandemic began.
“We were able to find a restaurant supply chain that we just brought on as at one of our suppliers,” said Federspiel. “They had a lot of the meats, coolers full of meats that they could not get rid of because they supplied restaurants. So we basically cornered the market on chicken breasts on ground beef items on all kinds of items and by doing so we were able to supply the public with lots of meats and not have to limit what they bought. A lot of places said no more than 10 pounds. We didn’t have those limits.”
Federspiel said he feels optimistic about the future of the meat market business despite any possible shortages and that it’s likely other meat markets are in the same position because his customer base grew during the pandemic.
“When all the restaurants shut down, people had to learn how to cook,” said Federspiel. “They had to cook for their families, and that sounds pretty simplistic but I think that’s basically what it boiled down to. People had to provide for their families. So they had to go to the grocery stores. They had to go to businesses like that, like us, and we expanded our customer base because of that.”
That growth allowed them to avoid any major financial losses restaurants closed and more people were looking for ingredients to cook at home. It is part of the reason Feder’s is able to expand their Huntertown operation to include a market like their Maplecrest Rd. location. The Huntertown market is set to open on August 21.