Changed Beef Consumption Following COVID-19 -Create Opportunities during last quarter of 2020

15 Jan 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic and African swine fever (ASF) changed beef consumption patterns through 2020.

While total beef consumption has not seen much change, distribution channels changed, benefiting some at the expense of others. Old distribution channels will recover as the impacts of the ASF are overcome and disruptions from COVID-19 subside.

“It is likely that many consumers will revert to their previous habits, but we do see opportunities for those stakeholders in the supply chain that have gained through this period to hang on to new consumers and ‘lock-in’ new consumption habits,” says Angus Gidley-Baird, Senior Analyst – Animal Protein.

Here is a brief summary of COVID-19 impacts:

Brazil – The number of new cases has been falling since the end of July. The foodservice channel is operating with reduced capacity. The arrival of warmer weather has limited the spread of the virus, but the risks of a rise in new cases increased with the approach of the holiday season.

US – COVID-19 cases are increasing. In many areas, restrictions on gatherings have been reinstated. Many localities have also reintroduced restrictions or even outright banned indoor dining. With colder weather, outdoor patio dining will struggle to make up the difference. Many schools are shifting back to virtual learning or simply not returning to classes after the Thanksgiving holiday.

China – While COVID-19 is largely under control in mainland China, cases of imported frozen meat and seafood affected by the virus have been continuously reported. This has led to stricter inspection at ports and local cold chain/storage, which will likely slow down imports.

Europe – With many countries introducing second ‘lockdown’, consumption of beef and veal has declined considerably, as increased retail sales have not compensated for losses in food service. It appears these restrictions will last into 2021.

Canada – Besides a few isolated COVID-19-related challenges, Canadian beef processors have resumed normal operations. Canada’s fed cattle backlog has been slower to clear than the US. As of 1 October, cattle on feed greater than 150 days was 31% higher than in 2019.

Indonesia – Food outlets and domestic air travel have reopened, but traffic only started to pick up in late August. Beef demand still lags last year, as COVID-19 has reduced consumer purchasing power.

As beef supplies shift towards cheaper imports, lot feeders remain cautious in restocking due to losses year-to-date.