Local meat suppliers in California have been struggling for some time now. The issues were recently outlined in a white paper that was released by the University of California, Davis, Food Systems Lab. While California has already been dealing with challenges in the meat processing sector, complications arising due to COVID-19 have put a national spotlight on the overall resilience of the industry. Michael R. Dimock, Roots of Change program director and lead author for the report, said that heightened awareness of meat processing challenges could help move solutions forward.
“There’s a lot of opportunity and the Secretary of Agriculture and her team are definitely focused and engaged and willing to work with us,” said Dimock. “We briefed her on the white paper, and we were really encouraged because right away she recognizes that both at the federal level and the state level there’s a lot of resources to be utilized to make important changes in the meat supply chain. So, she was very positive in embracing the idea that advocates and producers in the state who want to see changes work together with her department and with USDA and other departments in the government to get this off the ground.”
On a national level, the concentration of the meat processing industry has taken center stage as a critical priority. Dimock noted that in California in particular, there is simply not enough processing capacity to support a vibrant meat production supply chain. Smaller and mid-scale meat suppliers have experienced difficulty remaining competitive with some of the larger operators. With a new emphasis on the sustainability of the meat supply chain, Dimock said now is the time for much-needed investment to enhance resiliency.
“We know the Legislature is thinking about investments in the supply chains here in California and we certainly know USDA has already put up $500 million. They are thinking about more and other kinds of funding to help these challenges,” Dimock noted. “We are on the right track. It’s very encouraging.”