Get ready for a meat shortage

The Agriculture Department warns that the looming budget sequester could idle federal inspectors of meat and poultry plants for two weeks.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 20, 2013 2:31PM

Packaged ground beef (© Frank Bean/Uppercut RF/Getty Images)It's something shoppers don't give a lot of attention to when buying hamburger or chicken breasts: the little circle that verifies the meat has been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But without that stamp, meat can't be sold by packers and processors.

That's bad news because the looming U.S. government sequester means meat and poultry plants won't be able to receive their inspections, potentially leading to a shortage of everything from prime rib to chicken wings.

The sequester -- slated for March 1, unless Congress finds a way to sidestep the start of $85 billion in mandated federal budget cuts -- would keep meat inspection personnel from going to work for as many as 15 days, according to a letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the U.S. Department of Agriculture released and was reported by Reuters.

Such a "nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of (meat) inspection personnel" could lead to $10 billion in production losses, Vilsack wrote. 

Meat and poultry industry groups are alarmed at the prospect, with organizations such as the Poultry Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association sending a letter to Vilsack earlier this month. 

Their letter, which asks that the USDA avoid furloughing its inspectors, notes the shutdown would have wide-ranging effects. 

"Farmers raising livestock and poultry would have nowhere to send their animals and would have to shoulder substantial losses," it reads. "And, most alarming, American consumers could face their first widespread shortage of meat, poultry, and egg products in generations."

Vilsack didn't say when the furloughs would begin, although he told USDA employees earlier this month they'd get at least 30 days notice, according to Reuters. 

Meat production isn't all that would be affected. Other layoffs by the Agriculture Department would mean 600,000 low-income women and infants would be cut from the WIC program, which supplies food and nutritional education, Reuters notes. About 9 million pregnant women, new moms and their children use the program.

The Forest Service would also close 670 of its 19,000 recreation sites, probably during spring and summer, and cut 35 workers from its law enforcement force. 

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Feb 20, 2013 5:42PM
I bet congress wont suffer from meat and poultry shortages while they dont work to earn thier salaries...they need to stop being paid!
Feb 20, 2013 5:42PM
This is simply not true and is a scare tactic like all the others.
Feb 20, 2013 5:40PM
What no burger in our ham helper. I guess it is back to mac and fake cheese. We eat so well any how I was tired of rib eyes every night!
Feb 20, 2013 5:39PM
Good thing I cut down on my 'meat'.  With all the crap these animals are being injected with and their non sanitary living conditions, how many people are sure that it's actually 'meat' they are eating these days???   No loss for me, yuck!
Feb 20, 2013 5:39PM
Does the government actually think we are that "stupid"???  There is still going to be $$ going to these divisions of the government - BUT - they won't be getting an increase in their budget!!  So how does that effect the inspectors etc. from doing their jobs?  The so called cuts only means that they won't get the increase that they want!  When it comes to budget cuts they should start with their own salaries, benefits, pensions and health care etc.  I still haven't figured out how "an employee (government worker) gets paid better and has benefits that their employers don't have (the taxpayers of this country)?? Doesn't it amaze you that they govern themselves when "we the people" should be the ones who decide what they get in salaries, perks, pension, health care etc.  When they leave office they should have to purchase their own health insurance just like the rest of us.  Also there should be a 2 year term limit on these people just like the presidents - NO MORE career politicians!!!  When they leave office they should go back to the private sector job market and NOT be allowed to join up with a Lobbying group.  Employee dictating and ruling the Employer (us)!!!  There should be a movement started to correct this flawed system.
Feb 20, 2013 5:39PM

I have a freezer full of venison.


Feb 20, 2013 5:35PM
After the realization that they are using animal steroids to produce mor muscle in meat with the side effect of less or no flavor who wants it anyway. i buy my beef from a local slaughter house who raise their own natural fed beef. make my own burger etc. trouble is his prices reflect the average and rightly so it will cost more as the private sector comes up with another excuse to break it off in the public. Remember republicans say corporations are the same as people...
Feb 20, 2013 5:34PM
Just like a reality TV show. The sky is falling, the sky is falling....just then, at the last minute, a deal is reached and life goes on as normal. Nothing wrong with the public getting healthier by not eating flesh anyway for a while. They may find they feel better.
Feb 20, 2013 5:33PM
Lets start another shortage,sugar, oil, bacon what next week....i know Politian's
Feb 20, 2013 5:31PM
Let's see, cut 85 billion from the federal budget or eat a little less meat. Too bad it can't be 85 trillion. I say fire the whole damn lot of them and lets buy meat from the farmer and eat all we want!
Feb 20, 2013 5:30PM
By the way whats wrong with horse meat?
Feb 20, 2013 5:29PM
Don't care, not worried. I don't think the government will go through with the sequester, I think they'll just end up kicking the can down the road just like they always do.
Feb 20, 2013 5:25PM
I actually had a recent discussion with someone about deficit spending. Their argument was that there does not need to be a relationship between tax revenue and government spending. The US is a soverign issuer of currency and thus can and should print money at will.

My response to him was, "Great, why tax at all then? If there is no relationship between income and spending then why not just cut income to zero and monetize the whole thing by printing whatever you need?"

He had no answer because his idea is complete crap. There is a relationship. The Sequester is a tiny step to actually cutting some spending. Tiny. Spread to a broad base of Americans from people who own stuff to people who rely on a draw check every month. And all of us in between. This is how cuts have to happen to work.
Feb 20, 2013 5:25PM

Me again, there are hundreds of horses up in the high deserts that can be processed  and we will not have to put all those government employes on welfare

Feb 20, 2013 5:25PM
If you'll notice...the cheap food they are giving away (practically) is high carb food?  Most people are cutting it out of their diets and companies like General Mills, Nestle (the largest in the world) suffer losses and many huge food producers like ADM and Cargill will benefit fromthe scarcity and high prices in both commodity sales and beef scarcity which raises prices.  O'Bummer is the fascist corporate whore who panders to them all at the expense of "the people"...look at GE and all the manipulation and subsidies that drive you to their products...ethenol and cornsweeteners from ADM and Keystone get built for the oil cartel (Condi Rice...the Bush energy dynasty folks etc)
Feb 20, 2013 5:23PM
Don't panic people!  There is another great source of protein called seafood.  Go to your local fish market and get some today.
Feb 20, 2013 5:21PM
Feb 20, 2013 5:17PM
I hunt and fish and have plenty of high quality meet, poultry and pork. I even have my own water well, fruit trees and veggies. All on my own property. So I could care fricken less. You bunch of fools that depend on the government for everything. You will be the ones that suffer first then try to take what does not belong to you when you are desperate. 
Feb 20, 2013 5:16PM
For those who are still eating fish and think that's a good thing when "meat" gets scarce?  Remember they put "dispersents" in the ocean for the BP oil debacle.  I will never eat fish or sea food again...ever!  The studies they are doing (privately) suggest "problems" for those who continue to eat sea food...I loved shrimp...RATS!!
Feb 20, 2013 5:15PM

I don't think the amount is at risk only the quality due to too many chemicals injected into the animal and too many chemicals hybrid into their foods!


THus is Meat Looming no, but the quality sure is!

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