HARRISONVILLE, MO (KCTV) – As more Americans start stocking up at the grocery store, meat prices are in turmoil, causing uncertainty for both ranchers and shoppers.
For ranchers like Matt Moreland, farming is more of a lifestyle than a job. Moreland said it is a tough time to be a farmer, especially in the beef business, since cattle prices have been falling steadily since fears of the coronavirus began.
“It's a challenge because we still have to do the job,” he explained. “Imagine going to work every day, but your paycheck is 30 percent less.”
For shoppers visiting the grocery store would have a hard time knowing farmers were struggling. Chicken and beef seem to leave the shelves rapidly, and the prices for these staple proteins not getting any cheaper.
Still, even as consumer are seeing increases at the checkout stand, that difference is not making its way back to growers.
“Don't think that because hamburger goes way up that farmers are getting rich,” Moreland said.
Consumers may think that higher prices at the grocery store would mean more profits for farmers, but right now that's just not the case.
Kansas Livestock Association CEO Matt Teagarden explained that part of the problem is that schools and restaurants closing down have disrupted food supply chains.
“Adjusting that product mix between food service and retail has been a challenge,” Teagarden said. “Once some of these supply chain logistics get sorted out, we'll have plenty of things for consumers to cook at home.”
Still, part of the difference between what ranchers make and what hamburger costs has to do with meat packers, and right now those companies are making record profits, as much as $500-600 per animal.
That spike for the middleman in this scenario has many farmers looking for answers.
“We've asked USDA to take a look at those companies to investigate any wrongdoing, anything illegal,” Teagarden said.
“It's very frustrating as a producer,” Moreland added.
No matter the price, Moreland said he will keep feeding his cows, hoping the disruption will come to an end.
“We hope this thing gets better, that we get this under wraps and that the market turns around.”