American dairy farmers are sending their cows to the slaughterhouse to become hamburgers amid a coronavirus-fueled meat-industry meltdown, according to a report.
The number of milking cows butchered to become beef has spiked 2.3 percent in the past month due to a meat shortage and a glut of milk — and the worst is yet to come, Fortune magazine said.
And as beef prices continue to soar, farmers say they plan to slaughter up to 90,000 dairy cows this year to feed hamburger-hungry Americans demanding affordable cuts of beef, said Dave Kurzawski, an expert on livestock supply for the financial group INTL FCStone.
“Lean ground beef, principally from dairy cows, has become the prime meat of the day,” said Kurzawski, senior broker at the Chicago-based firm. “It can be ground up and used in what would be considered ground beef and ground chuck.”
Meat-processing plants across the nation have been forced to close in recent weeks, causing a shortage of some cuts of beef. Meanwhile, dairy farmers stuck with an oversupply milk have dumped hundreds of gallons down the drain.
To cope with the supply-and-demand nightmare, dairy farmers aim to reduce milk output by 15 percent — by slaughtering the animals, selling them or forcing them to lactate less, the outlet reported.
“We’ve seen some farms who are using a combination of all three of those within their herds to adjust production,” said David Darr, a senior vice-president of Dairy Farmers of America. “There are some farms who are looking at addressing their milk production by removing some animals from their herds.”
Overall, the market chaos has been “catastrophic” for farmers and it’s expected to get worse in the next 30 to 60 days, he said.
Cows that make less milk are typically first to go, so production rates have yet to slow, said Jared Hutchins, a researcher in dairy economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“It looks like cow numbers are still going up and milk production is still going up, so there’s countervailing forces,” he said.