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Local butcher keeping shelves stocked, even as nation faces meat shortage

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BATON ROUGE - Iverstine Farm and Butcher have certainly had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but so far business appears to be running smoothly. 

"There are more people eating at home, and our product is specifically tailored to people cooking at home," Galen Iverstine said. "Our demand has risen a good bit over the last couple of months during this."

Even with more demand, shelves have mostly remained stocked.

"We have seen a higher demand for certain cuts," Iverstine said. We have run out of some of those, like chicken wings, for some reason. I'm not quite sure why."

Not everyone in the meat industry has had the same success, especially with a meat shortage expected across the country as production levels are down.

"The shortage is directly related to plants having to close or operate on a partial basis," Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, Dr. Mike Strain said. "They don't have as many workers. They can't process as many animals into the final products we need."

Strain says by the end of this week and into next, Louisiana shoppers can expect to see some shortage of fresh meat at local grocery stores. However, there will still be some product left.

"I don't think there's going to be a total lack of meats," Strain said. "You may not get the cuts you want. You may not be able to get a ham that doesn't have the bone in it. But you will be able to buy a ham product."

Strain only expects prices to rise by pennies per pound. He adds that with President Donald Trump signing an executive order to keep processing plants open, production of pork, beef, and chicken could soon return to normal.

"If we can, in the next two weeks, start getting more people back to work, get all those production facilities back up and running, we can be back to full production in a month," Strain said.

Louisiana farmers are also feeling the effects of coronavirus. Many markets, including dairy, corn, and poultry, have been largely wiped out. Crawfish farmers are also experiencing this firsthand.

"80 percent of our crawfish market was lost because you couldn't go to a restaurant during crawfish season," Strain said.

As for Iverstine's, since their products are local, the decline in productivity at national processing pants isn't a big issue. Because of that, don't expect to see empty shelves at your next visit.

"I think this will kind of work itself out," Iverstine said. "There's food, we're just going to have to be a little more creative on how it gets to the market."

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