The COVID-19 pandemic is hammering U.S. meat production two ways: strangling demand from shuttered food service operations and shutdowns of meat processing facilities, said John Anderson, economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Anderson, head of the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness department for the Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, provides insights into COVID’s effects on the protein sector, according to a news release.

Pork production giant Smithfield Foods temporarily closed three plants in the last weeks in South Dakota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Other companies have also closed plants because employees tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“For the week ending April 18, preliminary data suggests that beef production was almost 20 percent lower than the prior year,” he said. “Pork production for the same period was down 6 percent year over year.”

“Even allowing for a bit of slowdown on the Monday following Easter, these are substantial declines in production,” Anderson said.

Noting a one-week lag in reporting, poultry production “has been consistently lower for the past three weeks,” he said.

Broiler production was down 5 percent year over year in the most recent weekly data.

Anderson said chick placements fell sharply in each of the last three weeks.

“This is strongly counter-seasonal: chick placements are generally steadily increasing at this time of year.”

The report, as well as others on the economic impact of COVID-19 on Arkansas agriculture and rural communities, can be found at

To learn more about agricultural economics, contact a local county extension agent, visit or follow the agency on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.