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Beef Buzz News


Beef Packers Struggle to Find Labor Force

Fri, 29 Oct 2021 10:26:11 CDT

Beef Packers Struggle to Find Labor Force The U.S. beef supply chain is complicated, with many unique and sometimes even conflicting factions that make it up. That makes it difficult to pinpoint issues when something goes wrong. That could not be truer of the U.S. beef industry now.

As beef cattle producers scale back herd sizes and feeders work through a surplus of cattle and meet 75% Plan negotiated cash trade silos, the processing facilities struggle to find a consistent tempo for product output. Chandler Keys, principal at Keys Group, a consulting and lobbying firm that serves some of the large meatpackers, told Radio Oklahoma’s own Ron Hays that labor shortages are preventing processing facilities from working at higher levels of capacity.

“I would say the big concern now is getting labor in these plants,” Keys said. “People just need to realize; the packers are increasing wages exponentially … but we still do not have the people coming into the plants and taking these jobs.”

Right now, most processing plants are running with about 60% of the normal and needed labor force to operate, Keys said.

“We are asking the workers to do a lot more and that puts a lot of pressure on these packers because people say, ‘get them to work Saturdays,’” Keys said. “They have been working Saturdays in the pork and beef plants for a few years now.”

Keys said it comes down to an issue of quality of life; people need more than one day off a week to rest a recuperate. The processing and packing industry do not want to push their labor force that hard when they are struggling to get people to show up for work already, he added.

There are no easy fixes on the horizon, according to Keys.

“A producer told me the other day, ‘what worries me more than an overcapitalized packing industry is an undercapitalized packing industry,’” Keys said. “I do not think any of the packers bemoan the added capacity that is coming on. You can build packing plants but if you do not have the labor to command them … it is very hard to get the labor to move from one plant to another plant.”

Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear more from Ron Hays and Chandler Keys as they talk about the labor shortage affecting beef throughput at processing facilities.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today’s show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.


   

   

Listen to Ron's conversation with Chandler here.
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