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Experts Warn Of Meat Shortages, Price Inflation As Production Slows At Top Processing Plants

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With the increasing number of employees testing positive for COVID-19 at our nation's top meat processing plants, production has come to a grinding halt at many of them.

With shutdowns here and in other countries that are major exporters to the U.S., experts warn that meat shortages are just weeks away.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an order keeping meat processing plants open as concerns about shortages continued.

Professor Nick Vyas, the Executive Director of the USC Center for Global Supply Chain Management said, "If we don't have enough people processing in the facilities, then it'll have an impact on consumers because shelves will be empty."

"I think we'll see the spike in the demand that will drive the prices and put the constraints on the supply side. So in the short term, absolutely prices will be inflated," Vyas said.

In a full-page newspaper ad, the chairman of Tyson said that the nation's food supply is breaking saying, "As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain."

"Because we are so dependent on the protein supply chain, meat supply chain, not only our local source but international source, this can really create a crisis globally," said Vyas.

According to David Dewey, President of the California Association of Meat Processors, "It's not the lack of the product, it's the lack of the product getting to the market. So they will have to be resourceful and figure out ways to get it to the consumer."

Officials with the Department Of Agriculture report we may soon see some meats unavailable at certain stores at certain times and others that are unavailable for longer periods of time.

Authorities hope they don't see hoarding and panic buying.

Shoppers at a few grocery stores in Santa Clarita said they've been able to find the meat they were looking for.

"I haven't had any problem buying chicken, it's just that the prices are $4 to $5 higher than it used to be, it's definitely noticeable that prices have gone up," said one shopper.

Another shopper, Sandra Valenzuela, said she didn't notice a price increase in the chicken and beef she normally buys. She isn't worried about a meat shortage.

"It doesn't need to be hoarding. Just take what you need so everybody else can have," she said.

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