South Florida meat shortage due to sick employees at processing plants

Recent trips to the grocery store have many customers asking, 'Where's the beef?'

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Recent trips to the grocery store have many customers asking, 'Where's the beef?'

A meat shortage seen in other parts of the United States has begun hitting South Florida.

There are plenty of cows, chickens and pigs, but not enough people to process it.

What’s on the dinner table depends on what’s available.

It used to be just cleaning products and hand sanitizer, but lately the refrigerated section has suffered as well.

For many, it’s become slim pickings.

Fanny Puello has to change dinner plans, visiting several stores to find meals for her family.

"Walmart has no chicken," she said. "I was like, 'Really? Walmart had no chicken? Walmart had no chicken?' I had to run to another Bravo, and another Bravo."

It’s hit or miss for shoppers these days, as many stores that have product are limiting what you can buy.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club you are limited to one package per product.

"If you’re feeding a family of five and you can only buy one pack of steaks, how does that work?" asked one shopper. "It doesn’t.

Local 10 visited several stories Tuesday, including BJ's, Publix, Winn Dixie and Walmart, and all had empty meat, pork or chicken shelves.

Rick Rosenberg is the President of CEO of Miami Purveyors. They have been supplying South Florida for 64 years.

"Just getting product here on time with the supply chain being disrupted," Rosenberg said when asked what his biggest obstacle is.

As he was speaking to Local 10 News' Jeff Weinsier, 18-wheelers were pulling in from Nebraska with product meant to be distributed to local stores.

"The plants don’t have people," Rosenberg said. "There’s no shortage of beef, there’s no shortage of pork, there’s no shortage of chicken. In fact, the farmers feed lots are backing up."

Thousands and thousands of meat processing plant employees are sick.

In fact Tyson has three processing plants closed.

Pork processing is down 50 percent, and Tyson also said its beef supply has been threatened because of sick workers.

"The personnel on these lines are highly trained," Rosenberg said. "They can't just bring in substitutes to pack product."

So with this, South Florida has seen a reduction in beef; just about 180,000,000 pounds a week, which equals 5,018 wheel trailers throughout the United States.

"But if everybody feels that they have to go into a store and buy one pack of steaks, but they can see that they can buy six or seven, and they load their freezers, we’re going to continue to have these problems until these plants get it back online completely," Rosenberg explained, adding that this situation could last for several weeks as those meat processing plant workers recover.

Companies like his are also selling directly to the public to make up for lost restaurant revenue.

Rosenberg said the shortage could last several weeks.

Several small butcher shops Local 10 spoke to on Tuesday had product, and should be called to avoid empty shelves at grocery stores.

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.