Prices rising, restaurants nixing menu items, and animals going to waste: the state of the supply chain in a nut shell.
POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The coronavirus has disrupted the meat supply chain, and it's affecting local vendors and restaurants.
The Butcher Block has been in Ed Vargason’s family for 45 years and never has he experienced changes to the food supply chain like this.
Vargason supplies meat for more than 200 restaurants from West Yellowstone to Twin Falls to Montpelier. Restaurants make up 90 percent of the Butcher Block’s clientele.
As stay-at-home orders took place, those restaurants cut back meat orders by 60 to 70 percent, Vargason said. That's more than half his business, gone.
“That much has been lost to the restaurant because people just aren’t going out,” Vargason said.
It starts here...
Meat packing facilities are a hotspot for coronavirus outbreaks among staff, resulting in dozens of pork, beef and chicken processing plants shutting down. On Tuesday, KMTV reported that 44 employees at Ida-Beef in Burley tested positive for the virus.
With no staff to process the meat, the supply chain has been disrupted in every facet.
Massive amounts of meat are going to waste. Vargason said he’s even heard of plants burying pigs that couldn’t be processed and sold.
“They kill them and bury them. They’re not putting them in the stores. There’s no way to get them out there, nobody’s on the lines to cut them down,” Vargason said.
With less meat available, prices are going up. But Vargason said that’s also thanks to processing plants hiking up their prices, which ends up costing the consumer more, too.
“I had a person last week come in here and look at the steaks and see how much they were and he was like, ‘I’ll just go home and make something else,’” Vargason said.
It's impacting restaurants, too...
Nic Transtrum, owner of the Blackhawk BBQ Pit, said he’s had trouble getting a large enough supply of pork and beef for his food truck.
“The last couple weeks we had a couple spells where we didn’t get as much pork as we needed,” Transtrum said.
Transtrum said he’s even had to cancel events because he couldn’t find enough meat to open his truck.
Blackhawk BBQ Pit is among many food establishments that are having trouble finding beef this week--which is bad news for a truck famous for brisket.
“Some of our restaurants decided they were going to quit selling beef on their menu because it got so expensive,” Vargason said.
Even the BBQ truck has had to forego the beef on occasion.
“I can’t charge double the prices for our customers and we would just be losing way too much money on it,” Transtrum said.
The good news...
Transtrum and Vargason are both hopeful that things will start to turn around soon, though it may not be as soon as they'd like.
The Butcher Block's foot traffic has increased significantly recently, so Vargason is confident they'll make it through.
Plus, Vargason said other than a higher price, an average customer may not notice a supply chain disruption at the store.
“It is a little harder to get right now, but still, if a person walks in, they’re going to get what they want because we still get just about everything,” Vargason said.