A look ahead at the pork processing industry

There’s been a lot of speculation about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the pork processing sector. To date, slaughter capacity in the pork industry is running at about 80% of its pre-COVID-19 levels. 

K-State ag economist Glynn Tonsor says while the industry’s likely lost the top end of capacity, recovery has come quicker than he thought it would.  “I had 85 percent in my head as maybe where we get to and I hope we get to 90 (percent) is what I was thinking about a month ago,” he says.  “And that was doomsday as to what it does to the backlog of hogs.  But sitting here today we will do that – and more.”

Iowa State University’s Lee Schulz says he expects plants to reach almost full processing capacity eventually.  But, the coronavirus pandemic highlighted constraints on the labor force in the pork industry.  Which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.  “The pool of available workers was negligible,” he says.  “And then you had this constraint where you lost the labor supply temporarily but all at once and in particular areas.  And I think that factor really makes the level that we get to maybe speculation at this point.”

Tonsor and Schulz made their comments during Brownfield’s latest webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on the ag industry.

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