Pa. meat producers say they are nimble enough to survive another COVID-19 spike

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) – The coronavirus pandemic dealt a blow to Pennsylvania's livestock industry. Meatpacking plants were closed, and whole herds had to be killed.

Now, a group representing the state’s beef, pork and poultry producers says they are resilient enough to handle a potential autumn spike in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.

Chris Herr, executive vice president of PennAg Industries Association, said the people who put chicken, steaks and pork chops on grocery store shelves have put in place extensive health and safety measures at their plants to protect their employees and to ensure the meat supply won’t be interrupted.

“Pork, beef, poultry feel pretty confident about where they stand,” Herr said. “So many investments have been made in the health of the employee and the adjustment to the supply chain that I’m confident that, going forward, there will be food on the shelves in the supermarkets this fall and winter.”

He said when the coronavirus sickened workers as it swept through processing plants last spring, many operations were forced to shut down for cleaning and to make changes to protect employees.

Herr said the supply chain -- which was more focused on the institutional market, such as restaurants, schools and colleges -- also had to pivot to the consumer market.

He said, because meat industry players have adapted, they have survived and can continue to thrive as long as they remain nimble enough to adjust to changes in the market.

And, Herr added, those adjustments have helped the farmers who raise chickens, cattle and hogs to stay in business.