NEW MARKET, Ala. – The meat shelves at the grocery store have looked a little depleted since the pandemic began, but experts say shelves aren’t representative of the beef supply.
Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Rick Pate, said he is confident in the state’s food supply chain, especially beef.
“I’m telling you that our food supply is safe. In fact, I tell people that it’s probably safer now than it’s ever been,” Pate said. “What’s happening is a lot of the concern that we have is that food is staying on the shelf too long, and that’s certainly not the case right now. Meat is flying off the shelf.”
Pate said the beef industry in Alabama is prosperous and he predicts it will stay that way.
“I can promise that we will have food next week. I can promise that we will have food next month, next year, five years from now,” he said. “The American agricultural food supply system is sustainable forever.”
Pate explained that once people started buying more beef during the pandemic, more cattle was being pushed through the system. That’s usually fine, but because of COVID-19, some meat processing plants weren’t running at full capacity, taking longer for that meat to make it to our grocery stores.
His word of advice to Alabamians is to buy ‘normal’ supplies, instead of stocking up.
Randy Moody owns and operates Little Mountain Farm in New Market. He said that during the pandemic he’s had to change the way he runs his business.
“The grocery store has caused people to panic, and realize, ‘hey, there’s got to be another way to acquire meat.’ And we do see an uptick in people calling and wanting to buy directly from the farm and have it processed,” Moody said.
Moody usually sells his cattle to other beef operations that will then put them on the market, but his cattle are worth a lot less right now.
“The price has gone down considerably. I’m talking 30-40 percent of what we were getting prior to the pandemic,” Moody said.
He said that he has a waiting list of people wanting to buy beef directly from him.
“The next ones we’ll process will be in November, because of the age of the cattle we have. But we’ve had an increase in people doing that,” Moody said. “That’s not what we do as a rule, but instead of marketing the steers through the other sources, we’ve decided to feed those steers out and market directly off the farm here.”
Moody has had to adapt his practices to keep his farm in business and to get people the meat that they want and need.
“You’ve got to be flexible enough in the business no matter what the business is to take advantage of whatever comes your way,” Moody said.
Moody said he hopes that even after all of this is over, people will continue to buy their meat directly from local farmers.