Coronavirus-Induced Food Supply Disruptions Hitting Farmers, Poor Consumers

For most, concerns about getting food greatly exceed actual food shortages, despite the combination of stockpiling and dislocations to supply.1 Yes, it may still be hard to get pasta. Some items are not regularly in stock, like chicken breasts. Here in Birmingham, local stores limited ground beef purchases to 2 pounds per trip. Generally speaking, the meat section hasn’t been as well provisioned. Later, customers here could only buy 2 dozen eggs. I’ve also seen some stores completely out of butter and very thinned out in frozen pizza.

How much food disruptions matter for now and the near future is very much a function of your personal situation. Many farmers are becoming victims of tightly-tuned supply chains. Two factors are having a major impact. One is the shift to eating nearly all meals at home. Before, a significant amount of daily food consumption was via restaurants and institutions, particularly school and university cafeterias. Those kitchens buy in bulk and use different wholesalers than grocery stores, who deal almost entirely in smaller package sizes, as well as more prepared items (like frozen meals and dishes, canned and packaged soups). So there’s a big mismatch between supply and demand. On top of that, Covid-19 induced closures of meat processing plants have hurt both farmers and consumers.

Needless to say, stockpiling isn’t helping. A senior manager at Costco told the Wall Street Journal that he hadn’t experienced so much demand for beef “since the Atkins Diet days”.

Consider this new Bloomberg story on how pig breeders are starting to kill their hogs rather than bring them to market:

In the U.S., at least eight major meat facilities have seen halts in the space of a few weeks, shuttering more than 15% of the nation’s pork processing capacity….

With packing plants closing, demand was getting hit for hogs already fattened up for slaughter, and for piglets that would typically replace those animals on the farm…..

In parts of western Canada, producers who normally sell baby pigs to the U.S. are unable to do so due to closures at American processing plants, Bergmann said. The shutdowns eliminate slaughter for several weeks and that creates a huge backlog of animals waiting to move through the system, he said….

In Minnesota, there have been isolated cases of farmers destroying fully grown hogs, said David Preisler, chief executive officer at the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

“Farmers are starting to run out of options with what to do with market-ready pigs,” he said by telephone. “There are other pigs that have been born that need to get into that barn space.”

Hog farmers don’t have the facilities to hold the animals and when they grow too large to be handled by packers, growers don’t have much choice, said Steve Meyer, an economist at consultant Kerns & Associates.

Chickens are also on a time-sensitive production schedule. From the Wall Street Journal:

At Costco, Mr. [Jeff] Lyons is focused on supplies of pork and chicken, which the chain requires to be raised and processed to certain specifications. Those industries inherently have less room for closures or surges in sales in their supply chains because animals are bred in precise quantities to meet expected demand, he said…..

For chicken, where Costco specializes in boneless, skinless breasts that are 99% fat-free, the company is working with plants to temporarily supply those products for additional days each week, Mr. Lyons said.

Egg farmers have been destroying eggs for the past month. Cattle ranchers don’t have this problem since they typically have enough feed lot space plus ability to change their feeding to delay their “time to slaughter” window to have more latitude. The Hill described more lost food output:

Some $5 billion of fresh fruits and vegetables have already gone to waste, according to the Produce Marketing Association, an industry trade group. Some dairies have been pouring thousands of gallons of milk down the drain.

And the situation is likely to get worse. From the Journal:

Last week U.S. beef production fell 24% compared with a month earlier, with pork off 20% and poultry down 10%, according to estimates from CoBank, an agricultural lender….

Meat inventories are likely to become tight within two weeks because of the recent processing-plant closures, and temporary shortages are possible, said Pat LaFrieda, chief executive of his namesake meat wholesaler, based in New Jersey.

In a new paper, Who is likely to go without food in the looming supply crisis? Markit identifies additional choke points:

Principal supply issues
Not enough labour to harvest the crops. This is partly due to transport problems (see below) and partly because of lockdowns…India has discovered that it is easier to lock people down and get them to return to their home towns and villages than it is to get them out again….

Also, if social distancing is practised, yields go down unless you add many more staff. That, of course, adds to costs.

Primary and further processing has exactly the same problem. At the simplest level, if you space staff on a conveyor belt two metres apart instead of one, you effectively halve your production rate. Either you work extra shifts or you add extra lines, again raising prices….

Meat
US farmers are sending all their herds to early slaughter because the catering market is dead and so, at the most basic level, nobody in the US is going out for steak & eggs or a nice bacon and egg breakfast in a diner. It takes time to rear cattle to ideal slaughter size and age (less time for pigs and poultry) and farmers are unlikely to start rearing until they are certain that there will be a market for the meat when the time comes, so there will be a gap of several months. Frozen meat will make up for some of the shortfall, but beef prices are likely to soar.

Oil
The crude oil price is now negative. In addition, the ethanol market is dead….As nobody’s making ethanol, that means a shortage of animal feed because after fermentation, the mash is dried, pelletised and fed to animals.

The entire (short) piece is worth reading, because it reaches grim conclusions for much of the world,, including food riots in cities with large slum populations.

A less obvious but still important factor in the comparatively pampered US is that more eating at home means different eating patterns. Someone who grabs ethnic fast food for lunch isn’t likely to attempt that in his kitchen. And a lot of people aren’t good at cooking, so Lord only know what they’ll wind up subsisting on.2 That’s why ground meat is so popular: it is versatile and fault tolerant.

Even though, at least for now, most consumers can find substitutes for missing or newly-pricey items, higher food costs plus a massive increase in unemployment and cuts in hours means more hunger. The chart below is from the Journal; the text is from The Hill:

Even before the pandemic began, 37 million people were considered food insecure, according to Monica Hake, a senior research manager at Feeding America, a hunger-prevention group.

The economic downturn from the coronavirus is only set to make that number rise.

In late March, Hake projected that a 7.6-point rise in the unemployment rate would increase the number of food-insecure people by 17.1 million.

So far, more than 20 million people have applied for unemployment, which economists say translates to a roughly 15 percent unemployment rate, up 11.5 points from before the pandemic.

That unemployment figure is a day stale. It’s up to 26 million with Thursday’s new claims data. Google confirms the level of distress. Before, if I put in “unemployment,” I’d get recent business news stories. Now I get this auto fill plus a map of the nearby unemployment offices:

Needless to say, this take is far too cheery:

If food is being thrown out, it’s hard to depict as just “being in the wrong place”:

Needless to say, the bigger problem now in the US is that many people have no new cash coming in, as opposed to food scarcity. In other places, the situation is far more acute and even less likely to get better soon.

_____

1 One reader decided to get 200,000 calories in his home. He noticed how some storable high calorie items like bulk quantities of rice and nuts went begging compared to pasta. “It’s if if they’re planning for a snowstorm, not a drought.” He also went long cooking oil and flour.

2 Before you get judgmental, even for low income people, buying prepared food often is all in cheaper than cooking. And to cook adequately, you need not to live in a food desert (as in have access to some affordable fresh vegetables), have kitchen equipment, and spices. One of my relatives who had a kitchen fire found the spices she’d lost cost over $1000 to replace.

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46 comments

  1. Redlife2017

    On your note 1: Yes, we are very long rice, dried beans (have a pressure cooker!), spam, canned hot dogs and canned corned beef (from Brazil).

    The answer to how to eat spam, canned hot dogs and canned corned beef: fry those puppies up! Spam is definately the cavier of canned meats. Even if it’s not fried it’s amazingly good. I did unfortunately notice that the US factory that produces spam had to close due to Covid-19. Ugh. At least the UK one is still OK.

    And on that note – In the UK, outside of issues of getting enough farm workers to work the fields (that’s a whole other post), I have seen nothing at all about danger to food production. Unlike the US, there don’t seem to be issues with Covid-19 shutting down factories. Do we have better health & safety, so that in a time like this we don’t have issues?? Considering the rate infection / death in the UK it’s rather interesting.

    Or, fellow-commentors, am I completely missing the boat on that story in the UK / EU?

    Reply
    1. rcd2010

      In the UK, there are shortages in the major online food providers, but this could also reflect a choice to focus on few lines with more reliable supply chains. Whereas in the past you might see 6 or more different brands of X, there is now frequently just one or two. Sporadic shortages in physical and online supermarkets were more common initially — things like bread flour. These appear to have eased. Coming up behind, a lot of centralisers who provided stocks (including prepared food) to restaurants are starting retail offers, handsomely priced. So some upside.

      Reply
    2. Heather

      Spam, yummy! I’m from Hawai’i, we eat lots of spam. Spam, lots of steamed white rice, a can of corn and a can of pork and beans. I would feed my four kids that when I was rushed for time, had little $$, or was too stressed out to cook, which happens when you have four kids and not very much $$ for whatever reason. They always loved it. And spam musubi! Spam fried with shoyu and sugar and a little garlic and ginger, then formed into musubi with white rice, and wrapped with nori. Doesn’t get much better than that!

      Reply
    3. Jose Freitas

      Cut the spam into cubes, sprinkle with sugar and some spices, and fry it and then make fried rice with it (adding some vegetables, soy sauce, etc…) it’s super delicious.

      Reply
  2. boomka

    So as many have said, we are quickly discovering that the side effects of trying to fight the virus will kill many more than the virus itself would kill, even if it was left unchecked. UN is warning that hundreds of millions could starve as a result of the economic disruption – surely virus wouldn’t kill quite as many.

    Here is what I don’t get though, and maybe someone can explain to me where the logic wrong in the following:

    Before all the lockdowns, R0 was estimated at around 3. So if we simply reduced the number of social interactions by 2/3, we would lower R0 to 1 and epidemic would stabilize to a simmer. That means 1/3 of people at work, in the trains, in schools, etc – which is a far cry from 95% reductions that most countries are trying to achieve with lockdowns. If in addition you make people practice some basic physical distancing, wash hands, wear masks, etc, then you shouldn’t even have to reduce interactions to 1/3, even 1/2 should be plenty, and that is starting to look as almost normal life pre-virus. So why do we need such draconian lockdowns?

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Others I am sure that are more qualified than I will discuss your mathematics but reducing social interactions by 2/3 will not work. Can you imagine doing that in the context of a major hospital? How about a food production factory where the workers are shoulder to shoulder? There are far too many nodes in the economy where people have to concentrate in numbers which means that that 2/3 reduction will not fly.

      But the context for this post was about the United States so consider. There will be literal mountains of food being plowed back into the soil and herds of animals being destroyed. Is there a need for all this food? Absolutely when you look at millions of Americans having to line up for food packs, often for the first time in their lives. But the present system is so rigid, so fragile, so lacking in adaptability, that no solutions are being brought forward to match up this supply to the demand.

      As an off the cuff solution right now (which took me all of 10 seconds), how about the government steps in to buy up that food – which saves having to bail those farmers out later – and using the military to distribute it and perhaps set up field kitchens in large cities & towns. Use both the Army and the National Guard. About $600 billion is spent on them a year and if their logistics people cannot quickly put together a system of transport & supply then they are utterly useless in an emergency. The need is now. In short, and to quote a movie line, it’s time to up the ante and kick in – like men.

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        Cambodia’s government now has state of emergency legislation allowing it to do just about what you suggest in your final paragraph, and from what I know of the military and administration here, they’d probably get it together pretty well if the need arises.

        I haven’t noticed much grass roots concern about these new laws, but opposition politicians and human rights fiends here and abroad have been squealing that they give the government too many powers which it might never give back, with insufficient oversight and safeguards, and so on. Well, maybe, but I can see much stronger resistance, from many more quarters, to something similar in the USA, and with greater reason if you ask me. I believe it’s against the sacred US Constitution for the Army to operate within the fatherland, and even if there’s a loophole allowing it in these circumstances, it would be controversial to say the least. As for not relinquishing newly acquired powers, we’ve seen plenty of that in the USA post-2001, with the Patriot Act and explosion of the surveillance industry etc. Which isn’t to say they won’t have troops processing or distributing food, and even putting down food riots in major cities.

        Reply
        1. Tom Stone

          XKeyscored, you are referring to the “Posse Comitatus Act”, which was overturned post 9/11 by the Military Commissions act.
          Our Congresscritters have passed a great deal of legislation to keep us safe over the last few years, bless their hearts.
          I also wonder how much poaching will increase in rural parts of the Country, in my youth Game Wardens and local Sheriff’s would sometimes turn a blind eye when they knew someone took a deer out of season if it was to feed their family and not for profit.

          Reply
          1. Swamp Yankee

            I personally have resorted to attempting to food-gather fish that are illegAl for me to so do, i.e., poaching, this spring. (I am a strict conservationist, do know that I have done so in time and way and place that is limited and responsible — won’t say anything more than that).

            Did it before in my life, when I was living off eight thousand dollars a year.

            Reply
        2. Anarcissie

          Speaking of the military, one of the remarkable things in both mainstream and eccentric Left and Right discussions of the financial and economic problems posed by the Plague, is the silence which largely surrounds the military budget and the military’s resources. Why are we in Afghanistan at this time?

          Reply
      2. Lynne

        That off the cuff solution, unfortunately, is no solution regardless of the Army and Guard issue. The big problem is food safety/inspection and regulation. The old processing plants that used to be available are no more, courtesy of the Clintons and their sweetheart deals for Tyson, which greased the skids for a massive consolidation in the food industry. That’s one of the reasons that Hillary evokes absolute visceral hatred in flyover country, which the press and East Coast completely missed because they never got it. Kind of like the way the press mocked and ridiculed the farmer who asked Obama questions about fed ag regulations, after Obama gave him a condescending 5 second brush off telling him not to believe what he heard, even though the farmer was correct.

        Reply
      3. thoughtfulperson

        Problem is, as with health care in the US, the example of people before profits is untenable. Even for a temporary crisis situation as you suggest.

        Now there maybe some groups like DSA, green party, etc, that may try to match up farmers with food banks, but the gov’t and large, corporations are totally captured by the 0.1% and their neo liberal ideology.

        Reply
    2. Bs

      boomka – I’m sorry but your comment makes no sense whatsoever. No the attempt to control the virus will not kill more people that the virus. Because what your saying is people should go back to whatever, suffer death rates of 5%, 20% hospitalization rates, have those that recover suddenly get sick by secondary effect, and no way of knowing just how much immunity for how long. No one has the right to blithely state the killing 5% and impairing another 10% is ok, not in America. Nor does anyone have the right to give another person an infection due to either not caring, or malice. I guess I’ll just keeping saying the reality of it all. Anyone working in enclosed spaces needs PPE, everyone needs testing – repeatedly. Outbreaks are going to occur hither & yon, and these need to strictly quarantined (not self, but at a secure location), and contracts traced. Right now with data on hand, everyone gets exposed to Covid-19.

      The failure here is no of leadership and failure in using the resources available. No having a standard test (3x types actually) is incompetence the both beggars belief and not seen sense the fall of Rome. Rome & America share in two things both were rich and both by the end couldn’t get a damn thing done.

      Reply
  3. divadab

    I can live for a long long time on Oatmeal and evaporated milk, rice and beans, pasta and meat sauce, biscuits and butter and maple syrup, sardines and tunafish, tomato soup and english muffins.

    But right now the local stores are open and generally well-stocked, so not dipping into my emergency stocks. The food system is resilient and will adapt to the new normal of people eating at home and no restaurant meals. Anyway our local Cash and Carry, which is primarily food service-oriented, is doing great business selling beans and tomatoes in number 10 tins and 25-lb sacks of flour and beans and rice for home, not restaurant use. Life goes on and people figure out how to thrive all by themselves.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, people in the US who still have adequate funds will be fine, even if they are getting less of the things they hanker for and pay more too. It’s the people who are in distress who will suffer even more.

      Reply
      1. divadab

        Yes, agreed. However, at least in Washington State, if you are unemployed as a result of covid-19, even if you are not eligible for unemployment insurance (because you are self-employed, or a “discouraged worker” with zero employment income), you will receive about $800 a week for up to 39 weeks. (That’s $200 from the State and $600 from the Feds). Not sure about other States but this is about as close to a guaranteed income as I’ve ever seen. It seems to me that even for chronically unemployed homeless people, this is a boon.

        Reply
        1. Code Name D

          On paper perhaps. But I am seeing reports of the system being so bogged down that some can’t even get through to register. Thanks to staffing and infrastructure cuts. States also have finite funds and thus have limits to how much they can spend on unemployment checks. So far, the fed has little will to backstop state unemployment funds. Washington may be better off than most states. But these problems are systemic.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            If 50-60 people were waiting outside in line to get into Home Depot in Visalia, Ca. (pop 136k) the other day for something that probably wasn’t essential, you wonder what how the supermarkets were and will be, as this epoch continues its wrath, with a funneling effect of everybody meeting in just a few public places…

            Reply
            1. Anarcissie

              That has been modeled mathematically / graphically; see
              https://youtu.be/gxAaO2rsdIs . The case of people practicing social distancing, yet continuing to visit a central point, is about like not practicing social distancing at all. However, the bureaucratic state likes central points because they follow the bureaucratic, top-down model. Consequently when it was decided to hand out box lunches to the elderly, or to students, the first plan was to have the recipients visit a distribution center. Later, someone got the bright idea of bringing the box lunches to dispersed local distribution points and having the students or others take it from there.

              Reply
          2. orlbucfan

            It will get real bad down here in FRight states like Florida. No pay and accessing the Fed money is an administrative nightmare due to ideology and incompetence. Starvation is increasing. I hope for the best, but am braced for the worse. Gun laws are a joke here, too.

            Reply
          3. Divadab

            WA’s system is online and I can testify it works like a charm. And to the person who said the benefits run only to July: according to the WA ESD, Pandemic Unemployment Benefits run for 39 weeks.

            So despite all the gainsayers, and I’m sorry if other States are not as competent, Washington State residents are getting cash for essentials in a fairly easy and efficient process. Too bad the Governor shut down hunting or people would be able to put a turkey in their freezer as well.

            Reply
            1. The Historian

              “And to the person who said the benefits run only to July: according to the WA ESD, Pandemic Unemployment Benefits run for 39 weeks. ”

              I believe that person was referring to the added $600/week. And she is right according to ESDWAGOV:

              “Q: I heard an additional $600 will be added to my unemployment payment each week. When will that start?
              A: Under the federal CARES Act, nearly everyone on unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months. We are working as fast as we can to implement these changes in our system and you will start receiving that extra money in mid-April. You won’t lose out on payments though – once the system is updated they will be provided retroactive from the time the legislation went into effect on March 29.”

              https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

              Reply
            2. judy2shoes

              It looks like you barely read my comment and didn’t read the link I posted. The Historian correctly notes I was referring to the $600 the Feds are adding – as I stated in my comment.

              As for WA State’s “system works like a charm,” my experience is different from yours, especially after the system was updated this past Saturday to handle the people who wouldn’t be covered under traditional unemployment rules. It took me numerous tries to finally get my claim filed. I kept getting kicked out of the system and/or sent back to the same questions over and over again. I finally managed to finish my claim, but even then, the money was delayed due to the system being overwhelmed.

              I have two neighbors who normally wouldn’t be covered (hairdresser and tattoo artist). The WA state website informed them that they had to wait to file for unemployment until the system was in place to handle them (4/18). Well, both started trying to file for unemployment this past Sunday (4/19), and as of today, they still haven’t been able to get into the system. Too overwhelmed. So your statement “Washington State residents are getting cash for essentials in a fairly easy and efficient process” certainly isn’t true for non-traditional workers who first had to stop working last month and then had to wait until WA State’s system was updated (4/18) before they could even apply for unemployment. And then they can’t get through either via phone or the web. They’ve been without income for close to a month, and there are thousands just like them all over this state.

              I will say, though, that WA State is probably doing a much better job of handling this fiasco than many other states.

              Reply
      2. Oso

        Yves Smith, thank you. inner cities have what some call “food deserts” where people lacking resources are forced to shop. Same with reservations or where people pick fruit and vegetables live. many of us do what we can to get meals or supplies to these folks – but covid-19 has really impacted this type of community work. i appreciate the solidarity in your comment.

        Reply
    2. skk

      talking of oatmeal – gosh I well recall one Xmas – stuck in college dorms – I had nowhere else to go- money getting depleted with no new money till the start of a new term in Jan.. over the 2 weeks or so I went from eating Alpen ( a fancy oatmeal cereal ) with milk to oatmeal and hot water and sugar towards the end. Since then, I really don’t fuss – if its not there, I’ll substitute of do without.

      Right now, I’m not detecting any shortages – my weekly shopping trip is usually for carrots, persian cucumbers , beetroot, cabbage, cilantro, red and green peppers, red radishes, cilantro, red and brown onions, eggplant or cauliflower or some stuff like that, tomatoes, celery apples pears,etc etc are all available – and I can’t detect if the prices have gone up – perhaps the 5 for a buck lines are now 3 for a buck but that could just be loss-leader changes. Baguettes, brown bread, 18 eggs, milk, CHEESE of a variety of times is all there too.
      Meat ? its mostly chicken anyway but the bulk buys of fresh when on special offer that we just freeze seems to just last and last.
      But I keep watching and looking out for changes.

      Reply
  4. Jesper

    Does anyone have any comparison about how much food is thrown away during regular times compared to these unusual times?
    What I am wondering is how much of the food that is wasted now would be wasted anyway.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      Yes, there have been recent studies showing that around 40% or more of all food is thrown away during normal times. So now, rather than having thousands of restaurants separately tossing food into a dumpster every day, it’s being thrown out on large quantities before it even gets there so it’s much more noticeable. But not necessarily much different.

      USDA estimates 30-40% of all food is thrown out.

      Another study from ~ 2016 estimates 50% of all US produce is thrown out.

      Another with similar figures – 40% of all food thrown out in the US and about a third worldwide.

      We’re just throwing it out at the beginning if the supply chain right now rather than at the end. Maybe the fact that it’s being noticed will lead people to actually do something about it now.

      Reply
      1. Anarcissie

        The local anarchist youth have been setting up public refrigerators (often discards from failed businesses) in front yards and filling them with food from delis, small supermarkets, and so forth, which was either discarded or was destined to be discarded, all available for free of course — sort of Food Not Bombs style, but fairly dispersed. The operations are coordinated by using a sort of mail or group list on Signal, a texting etc. app available free. It’s a growing ‘movement’ if you want to call it that. At this point the discarded food is plentiful but it is not hard to foresee that it will eventually decline and something else will have to be done.

        Reply
  5. Wukchumni

    I’d say the hardest part in the equation is the inability for us to realize this perfect maelstrom isn’t going away in May, despite attempts by the usual suspect states to decide otherwise.

    I’m pretty sketched out going shopping for food in a rural area, can’t imagine the dread in the Big Smokes in comparison.

    ‘I’m alright Jack, got me XXX pounds of this, that and whatever’ only applies to you and yours, it’s the people who have blown through $13 worth of gas waiting in a food bank car line for 4 hours, are the ones who’ll decide our main course.

    Its early in Whorled War 1 and like all wars, we hope they’ll be over and done as quick as Iraq War 1, but that seldom occurs.

    I’ve mentioned often the cause of the French Revolution was iffy harvests after a couple of Icelandic volcanoes blew up real good in 1783-85, and the price of bread went up to 50% over the daily wage, fomenting disaster.

    The very same volcanoes caused bad harvests all over Europe and the rest of the world for about a decade, but why was it only the French that went apeshit?

    I see us being the frogs in the pot this go round.

    Reply
    1. The Historian

      “The very same volcanoes caused bad harvests all over Europe and the rest of the world for about a decade, but why was it only the French that went apeshit?”

      There are many different types of revolutions. What France had was a populist revolution and historians these days generally agree that in order to have a populist revolution you need three things:
      1. An unhappy society – the poor harvests created that.
      2. A polarized society so that a small minority can have a big effect – enlightenment thinking v. the Crown and the Catholic Church and between the land owners and the peasants, etc.,
      3. A crisis – and the crisis the French faced was the bankruptcy of their government because of France’s participation in wars with Great Britain, including the US Revolutionary War, not to mention the high living of their rulers.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_the_French_Revolution

      Without those three things, you won’t get a populist revolution. Only France had all three things going at once at the time. Russia managed to have the same things happen in 1917 because the only thing the Tsar’s learned from the French Revolution was to fear the masses.

      https://www.reference.com/history/common-causes-revolution-history-d022271ee8d15436

      I sometimes wonder where we are in this process.

      Reply
  6. Wukchumni

    There are perhaps a hundred cows within a mile of me, these are kind of hobby ranches, as you can’t really make money on it compared to CAFO operations. They’re grass fed in the winter and supplemented with alfalfa feed after grass gets scarce in the summer to fall.

    When time comes to dispatch one its in the spring or fall, and a mobile slaughtering van comes around and does the deed and off it went to a butcher in Exeter to be aged for 3 weeks in a meat locker there. We get it from the butcher in frozen paper wrapped portions, and well over half is ground beef. (which is really delicious)

    We’ve split a half a side (about 240 pounds) of grass-fed beef with neighbors before, and there’s not a lot of fat on it, and our friend who raised the cows and sold us the beef told us to marinate steaks in olive oil for a little while before cooking on the grill.

    There’s 50,000 pounds of meat around these parts, perhaps more beef on the hoof than in the environs of the City of Los Angeles, where suburban backyard bovine operations never became a thing, despite growing feed for them on expansive lawns.

    Reply
  7. Local to Oakland

    There are plusses and minuses to living in the city right now.

    One plus for me was exploring a restaurant and catering supply store. They have staples like flour and rice, boxes of fish fillets, etc. I’m surprised they are not advertising right now.

    Reply
  8. Beans

    Coronaviruses are common in pork industry. Covid19 can infect bats, pangolins, cats & humans. What are chances that it can infect pigs as well? The slaughterhouses now shut have been dense case clusters, mainly those handling pork, much less those handling beef&poultry.

    Reply
  9. Joe Well

    Another obstacle to preparing food at home, and dealing with the pandemic generally, especially as you go lower down the income ladder, is how many Americans live with roommates or packed in with lots of family members.

    I ended up in this situation thinking it would be temporary but extended in March due to all the uncertainties.

    One roommate likes to cook. The kitchen time, cupboard space, and freezer space have to be divided among three people. Not a problem before lockdown since he only cooked a few meals a week, but now it’s two a day.

    The fact that a studio apartment is so hard to obtain for so many Americans is, for me, the best proof that we are not a rich country at all, just a highly unequal one.

    Reply
  10. Julian

    You know what I have been wondering about? Why no one is talking about equipping essential employees with CPAP headgear, like one in this frame from medcram https://youtu.be/fn2yk5SbGiw?t=78. This virus is infectious only through mucous membranes (eyes, inside mouth, inside nose). So to prevent infection all you need is a filtered headgear delivering positive pressure preventing unfiltered air. And proper decontamination shower at exit with clean change of clothes. At first I thought such gear did not exist, (I thought it was only available as a full body suit, like in some movies). But in that video I see exactly the kind of gear I was thinking.

    I don’t think it would be hard or expensive to make. But I can’t figure out, why no one in the higher places came up with this.

    Reply
  11. rtah100

    @ Joe Well, why don’t you pool your food budget and have the cook do the cooking and the rest of you do the kitchen porter jobs and some of the other housework (and write the menu 2/3 of the time)? I’m guessing you are three people thrown together at random but if there is a theme of NC, it is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    @ Julian, there has been a serious discussion about *not* using CPAP to treat COVID patients because the positive pressure head bubble is typically vented without filters to the atmosphere. So anybody infected is just aerosolising the virus into the environment….

    Reply
  12. George Phillies

    With respect to your understandable lamentations, I note one point the Chinese very definitely do have right, for cooking: The best part of the chicken is the thighs, bones in and skin on.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not lamenting. The buyer at Costco is.

      I never ate meat at all till I came down here. Can’t get decent fish so my fish consumption is down, and I can’t even get super firm tofu. Still not eating much since my diet is heavy on fruit and veg.

      Reply
  13. TomR

    It looks like a high-level pathological Psychopathy – killing animals for no benefit. It definitely shouldn’t be allowed, but strictly prohibited.

    The typical case for enslaving and killing animals is also not moral in and of itself, yod’d go to jail if you did such thing to a pet animal, but at least it has some justification – it gives some benefits, like quality proteins. Enslaving and killing animals for nothing has only downsides, not only the psychopathic behavior, but also all pollution needed to grow an animal, and to dispose of it after killing it.

    Reply

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