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Expert says shortage in labor, not meat, at center of beef problems

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BATON ROUGE - At Calandro's grocery store on Government Street, Chase Cole picked out fresh meat as he preps for a big Cinco de Mayo dinner for his family. 

"I'm just happy to be able to support local businesses like we are. So it's not something that I super stress about," Cole said. 

Shopping local is his alternative to shopping at large chain grocery stores. 
It's where he says he's found the most variety of meat.

"I feel like a couple of weeks ago you could barely get cleaning supplies and all that. Now, I can buy hand soap but finding chicken breast is like a needle in a haystack type thing," Cole said. 

President Donald Trump ordered meat processing plants to remain open, but fear over a meat shortage is still looming. Regional livestock specialist Jason Holmes says this comes as major meat suppliers announce temporary closures, with some employees testing positive for COVID-19. 

"You don't have to go out and panic-buy meat. It's coming. It's out there. It's just taking a little bit slower to get there than what we're used to," Holmes said. 

Holmes says there's no need to hoard groceries. There's an ample amount of meat, however there's a shortage of labor. 

This is not only affecting stores but also local farmers. 

"We can hardly even break even right now with what calf prices are here in Louisiana, so it's a really tough issue for our state's farmers," Holmes said. 

Calandro's assistant manager, Blaise Calandro, says the temporary supply chain disruption is starting to affect prices.

"There's still stuff that's double the price on low to mid-level cuts, things that are a little bit cheaper. The higher-end stuff seems to be fairly stable," he said.

He recommends for customers to buy their meats in family packs and shop local if possible. 

"Stick with local, that's where people are filling in the holes now. We're finding out that national supply chains are going to come back, but the local supply chains are really important," Calandro said.

Experts stress that there's no shortage of meat here in Louisiana. However, some chain grocery stores like Costco are limiting the amount of meat that people can buy at one time. 


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