If you’re a lover of all things meat-y, there could be bad news ahead. Several of North America’s largest meat producers have been forced to close or reduce production due to COVID-19, and meat shortages in Canada are now a real possibility. Industry leaders are urging Canadians to be prepared for an “immediate and drastic” effect on supplies.

A new report from CTV News has revealed that Canada’s meat supply could be in danger, as a number of the country’s largest suppliers have drastically reduced production, or closed altogether.

In particular, a Cargill meat plant in High River, Alberta has temporarily reduced their production, after “dozens” of employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19.*

This single facility represents more than 30% of Canada’s total processing capability, causing industry experts to speak out about the “severely limited” supply of beef. 

“The impacts to the Canadian beef industry are expected to be immediate and drastic,” Michelle McMullen, communications manager at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), told CTV on Monday.

In addition to the Alberta beef plant, Smithfield Foods — the world’s largest pork processor — announced the indefinite closure of one of its factories.

In a statement on the company's website, CEO Kenneth Sullivan explained, “The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” 

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Sullivan added.

A pork plant in Quebec has also been closed for two weeks after nine workers tested positive for COVID-19

Maple Leaf Foods' Brampton location also suspended operations at their poultry farm, after three workers tested positive for the disease.

According to the CCA, a significant number of Canadian meat plants have been forced to reduce their operations, in order to implement adequate physical distancing safety measures.

COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact, not just on the meat industry, but on the food industry as a whole.

Last week, a report from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph suggested that food prices would increase during 2020, due to the impact of the novel coronavirus.

While the cost increases are expected to be minimal, it’s meat, vegetables and bakery items that are likely to see the highest trend upward.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Canada has experienced a number of shortages.

From medical supplies and face masks to toilet paper and flour, thousands of Canadians are learning to cope without essential items.

If you’ve been considering trialling a plant-based or vegetarian diet, maybe now is the time to start!

*This article has been updated.

*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.

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