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COVID-19 IMPACTS: Department of Agriculture says euthanizing animals could be next

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- With multiple meat processing plants shut down, farmers have no where to send their livestock to be processed. Farmers in need of help caught the eye of government officials at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture who say they've been working on the situation.

The state had some positive news of being able to re-open one meat processing plant, Prime Pork in Windham, MN. However, the negatives outweigh the positives with some of the plants in the area shut down. According to Thom Peterson, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture for Minnesota, the state's meat processing capacity is operating at 50%, maybe less.

Mike Patterson, a Kenyon hog farmer, has big concerns of where he will be able to send his hogs. He's not alone.

Peterson says, "We are looking to find homes for somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 hogs per week right now."

This backup in the system with nowhere to go could lead to changes at the grocery store as well.

"For now our food supply is stable. Our consumers will see some disruptions as they have and they may see some higher prices that will become more pronounced depending on how long we are in this situation with COVID-19," Peterson says.

He later answered another question saying that the longer these plants stay closed or if more plants close causing further disruptions, consumers will feel the effects.

Local farmers have had to look to local meat storage facilities, or meat lockers, to store their livestock. The state has also tried to expand capacity at the plants that are still open but that hasn't been successful. With farmers scrambling, euthanasia may be the last resort.

“We will be needing to euthanize some animals. We're taking every step to not have that happen but there will be that taking place," Peterson says.

The state will be working with the American Veterinary Medical Association to make sure all euthanizing is done correctly.

Zach Fuller

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