Fresh meat prices escalated 8.1% in stores, compared to the same period last year, according to Nielsen data for the week ending April 25.
Many experts are predicting prices to skyrocket in the coming weeks, as meat processing plants across the U.S. are forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pork and beef prices could increase by as much as 20% compared to 2019, according to a new report from CoBank, a cooperative bank that is part of the Farm Credit System. A 20% increase would be an unprecedented price hike, according to Will Sawyer, CoBank’s lead animal protein economist. Pork prices have only experienced inflation of more than 10% twice in the last 20 years; neither time did inflation grow to 20%.
A number of massive meat processing plants have been forced to shut down due to COVID-19 cases, or operate at a limited capacity. With slaughterhouses shutting down, some farmers are saying they may have to euthanize animals which will only make future price hikes and food shortages worse, according to Sawyer.
“As communities reopen with only about one week of meat supply in cold storage, shortages and stock outs in the meat case couldn’t come at a worse time,” Sawyer writes in the report. Grocery chains including Kroger and Costco have already started limiting how much meat customers can buy.
President Trump recently signed an executive order demanding that meat processing plants stay open.