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South Florida businesses impacted by meat processing plants closing across the country

Posted at 12:02 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 00:04:30-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — When it comes to buying meat in West Palm Beach, you’re not limited to grocery stores and supermarkets.

Businesses like the Okeechobee Steakhouse have been serving up fresh and aged meat for decades.

Okeechobee CEO Ralph Lewis says, "We are feeling the pinch it started about 3 weeks ago feeling it and it’s getting harder everyday."

Lewis says they’ve never seen a disruption in the food supply chain as big as the one cause by COVID-19 outbreaks at more than a dozen Smithfield and Tyson processing plants across the country.

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“It’s getting very difficult,” says Lewis, “I think for the next 3 to 6 weeks it’s gonna continue to be difficult until more product gets in the supply line.”

The Butcher Shop in Downtown West Palm is also facing similar hurdles.

Executive Chief Gary Small says he's already finding it tough to get some orders filled, “Smithfield is our pork purveyor so that’s going to affect bacon pulled pork ribs, sausage production is going to go down all those things are going to be affected by the pork shortage.”

Small says if the trend continues - a meat supply shortage will mean fewer menu options.

“Any new pork is 20 to 30% higher in fear we may have to remove pork from our menus because we can’t pass on that cost increase,” says Small.

If the plants continue to close, restaurant staff and owners worry menus will shrink and prices may go up.

Lewis says, “Certainly people do not need increases in food costs at this time of all times now is not the time to raise prices.”

The concern now in the meat industry - is the uncertain future.

“We’re worried the places we worked so hard to build are going to close down of no fault of our own,” says Small.