This week Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue took special note of the safe and successful reopening of meatpacking facilities in the cattle, swine, and broiler sectors. He noted processors are running at an average capacity right near this same time last year, currently better than 95%.
Purdue commended those who shut down but were able to reopen safely and quickly. Denise Derrer, Public Information Director at the Indiana State Board of Animal Health said Indiana’s meat supply system from farm to processor has been fortunate to avoid some of the long-term disruptions other states experienced.
“Our two major federally inspected packers were down for a couple of weeks each, which was a significant disruption,” she told HAT. “However a lot of the farmers we are encountering in Indiana have found other markets for their pigs or have been able to reroute or hold on to that production as far as doing other things like altering feed rations, and double stocking and those types of things.”
She did note the state is not 100 percent beyond all problems, the backlog of pigs on the farm for example. But those other markets she mentioned include state-inspected meat processors that have picked up their own pace.
“Those are the very small plants with fewer than 25 employees, and they’ve really stepped up and done a lot to absorb those excess hogs that have been in the channels,” Derrer said. “The state Board of Animal Health inspection staff has provided extra staff coverage for slaughter and to make sure the animals are inspected, and the meat products are inspected and can be labelled as such. We know the slaughter capacity has increased in the swine sector at our state plants by 58% year over year. In cattle we’ve seen an increase of 43%.”
How is the Board of Animal Health dealing with their increased workload? Is Indiana learning more about dealing with the next pandemic? And is the whole farm to table and local food movement a beneficiary of all of this? Denise Derrer addresses those questions next week.