As COVID-19 spread across the country last year, it spurred the “great grocery grab of 2020” – a shift to at-home food consumption not seen since the early 1980s. The abrupt change also forced the most significant shift in meat supplies the industry has experienced, diverting massive volumes of meat and other food originally intended for restaurants into retail distribution channels and grocery stores.
U.S. animal protein supplies have returned to normal, and foodservice sales have improved since the onset of the pandemic but may not return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2022, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange. A CoBank spokesperson says the trends in demand “are central to the profitability and viability of the U.S. animal protein supply chain.”
The beef and pork sectors have some flexibility to adapt, as major packers sell their products to a variety of retail, foodservice and export customers. In the poultry sector, however, many integrators and poultry plants focus either on retail or foodservice, but not necessarily both.