(Bloomberg) -- The Covid-19 outbreak depleted America’s meat reserves, and new data from the U.S. shows they still haven’t recovered.

Beef, pork and chicken in U.S. freezers took a plunge after thousands of slaughterhouse workers caught the virus in 2020 and forced plants to shut down. A labor crunch continues to hurt output. A U.S. report Wednesday showed beef reserves down 7.7% from a year ago in August. Poultry supplies slumped 20% and pork bellies, which are sliced into bacon, dropped 44% to the lowest levels since 2017.

Typically, frozen meat supplies would start to balloon around this time of year as summer grilling season ends. This year, only a modest expansion is likely to take place, signaling that meat prices will stay elevated, according to Jim Sullivan, commercial director for Stable USA, which offers custom risk-management tools for products such as pork cuts that aren’t listed on derivatives exchanges. 

“Prices remain very elevated compared to seasonal expectations,” Sullivan said.



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