Chalk it up to a side effect nobody ever expected from the pandemic: meat is becoming difficult to get. Who would have expected this to result in grocery stores across the country rationing meat purchases? Who would have ever thought the COVID-19 virus would mean that places like Wendy's would stop selling burgers altogether and that McDonald's would cut its menu to only a handful of offerings?
Workers at meat packaging plants have been especially hard hit with the coronavirus. Almost 60% of the employees at one Tyson plant in Iowa have tested positive for COVID. Plants everywhere are shutting down for the safety of their employees and despite President Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act to force them to reopen, many workers have refused to return to the plants. Factory farms have culled millions of cows, hogs, and chickens because they cannot be to plants that are either closed or reducing the amount of meat they're able to process while practicing social distancing.
Historically, the centralization of food has always ended in disaster. Unfortunately, giant CAFO operations and USDA approval have centralized our own food supply, and here we are.
Do the meat shortages mean that you have to become a vegetarian? While that is one option, here are some other ways to keep meat on the table at your house.
Buy in bulk locally
One of the best ways to acquire meat is to purchase in bulk and to do so locally. You can buy a quarter or a half of a pig or cow and have it processed into your favorite cuts. As well, you are locking in your meat price by purchasing it all at once. This way, you won't be as strongly affected by meat inflation until next season.
Here are a few tips for bulk purchases of meat
-If that is more meat than your family can use or more money than you can spend right now, consider going in with another family and splitting the purchase.
-You need a deep freezer in order to make the most of such a large purchase.
-I also like to can meat so that I am not as dependent on the electrical grid. Look into canning entire roasts, meatballs, or chili. You can also check out my canning cookbook for more canning recipes.
-Have the poorer cuts turned into stew meat or ground meat.
-Slow cooking a lower quality cut can turn something tough into something that melts in your mouth.