Home Cooking is Back as Comfort Foods Boom with Fears of Meat Shortages Ahead


Here in California we are still under lockdown or shelter-in-place orders, as are most people throughout the United States.  As a result of COVID-19, there is a noticeable shift in shopping behavior as we consume more “comfort foods” and keep our homes and clothing cleaner than ever.  Frozen pizza, pasta sauce and good old mac and cheese along with frozen vegetables, prepared meals and Hot Pockets are all performing well at retail level.  Campbell Soup Company said retailers are buying more canned soups and SpaghettiOs.

Many Americans are now eating three meals a day at home as dining out has become a thing of the past.  Some continue to order take-out from the restaurants (the ones that are still open), but often the prices are just too high for those who are out of work or on fixed incomes.  So, it looks like home cooking is back, but will it continue after the end of this pandemic? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, people are stocking up on Knorr soup cubes, instant noodles and Hellman’s mayonnaise, to name a few.

One shift for sure is the move to shop online as consumers under lockdown opt to order everything and anything on the internet – they will continue to do so in the future.  Many brick and mortar businesses have had to create online platforms quickly so that loyal customers can continue to purchase from them.

During this crisis, the noticeable shortages so far have been in paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, diapers and laundry detergent, bleach and so on.  We haven’t really seen a shortage in proteins like meat or pork…but it looks like we may be heading that way.

“There just isn’t enough pork in the world to fill the gap.”

That’s what people said when the African Swine Flu hit China hard last year…because 40% of Chinese pigs – that’s millions and millions and millions of pigs were lost or euthanized. As a result, prices soared, and imports of U.S. pork increased along with product from Brazil, Ireland and other countries.  And the ban on pork from Canada was lifted in November 2019 to help ease the problem.

However, good news came for Chinese pork lovers just this week when the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced that China’s hog production and sales recovered in March 2020 and the recent high prices were beginning to decline. It seems like a miracle but is due in part to the addition of 18,000 more pig farming businesses to the existing 370,000 farms already in operation. Increased efficiency from the large-scale standardized pig farms (which are quickly replacing many smaller, family-owned operations.) is helping as well.

Now here’s the thing: Chinese people love their pork and the average Chinese person eats about 30 kg of pork per year.  And here in the USA we love our beef – consuming about 26 kg of beef a year. While our problems here are nothing of the magnitude of the recent swine fever pork crisis in China, we may soon be facing meat shortages due to COVID-19 plant closures.

The first indication came with the closure on April 12, 2020 of Smithfield’s meat processing facility in South Dakota due to a COVID-19 outbreak infecting more than 700 employees.  Just two days later, Smithfield announced it was shutting down two additional meat processing facilities in Missouri and Wisconsin.  Same problem in these locations.

By the way, Smithfield is 100% Chinese owned – purchased for 4.7 billion dollars in 2013 by Shaunghu International Holdings Ltd.)  At that time, it was the largest amount paid for an American company – and they didn’t just buy an American business, they bought 25% of the U.S. pork industry.

The closure of the Smithfield plants was followed by the closure of JBS USA plant in Worthington, Minnesota. It employed 2,000 people and processed 20,000 hogs per day. And then on April 22, 2020, Tyson Foods announced it was closing its Waterloo, Iowa plant that employs 2,800 people and processes 19,500 hogs per day along with its beef processing facility in Pasco, Washington.  Waterloo is Tyson’s largest pork processing plant and represents 4 percent of the nation’s pork processing capacity.

There is no doubt these and new shutdowns will lead to potential shortages and send pork and beef prices higher in the grocery stores. Hopefully we won’t see the hoarding and panic buying of meats that we experienced over the last two months for paper towels and toilet paper, but Americans do love their meat!

Lily Noon




今では多くのアメリカ人が自宅で三食食べていて、外食は過去のことになりました。今でも営業を続けているレストランからテイクアウトを注文している人もいますが、失業した人や年金受給者などにとっては、とにかく値段が高すぎます。というわけで、「家ごはん」が復活しました。でも、パンデミックが終息した後も、このトレンドは続くのでしょうか? その答えはまだ分かりませんが、その間にも消費者は、クノールの固形スープやインスタント麺、ヘルマンのマヨネーズなど、なじみ深いブランドの食品を買い込んでいます。









スミスフィールドの工場閉鎖に続いて、ミネソタ州ワーシントンにあるJBS USAの工場も閉鎖されました。ここでは2,000人の作業員が一日2万頭のブタを加工していました。さらに4月22日には、タイソン・フーズが、アイオワ州ウォータールーの工場閉鎖を発表しました。作業員2,800人、一日の加工量は1万9,500頭です。また、同社は、ワシントン州パスコの牛肉加工工場も閉鎖しました。ウォータールーは、タイソンの豚肉加工工場としては最大で、米国の豚肉加工量のシェア4%を占めています。




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