‘Territory we’ve never seen before:’ Meat prices skyrocket amid labor shortage

MADISON, Wis. — Paul Markhardt can show you the largely empty freezers at his Verona workplace.

The president of Harold Gabbei Wholesale Meats, Markhardt recalls running out of space in the freezers he now worries about not filling. The problem, according to Markhardt, is the labor shortage we face.

“There’s plenty of cattle in the United States to go around, but just nobody to process them,” said Markhardt.“We are probably down on our supply over 200,000 pounds of meat.”

The shortage isn’t a problem unique to the meat industry, but it is a costly one. Prices in the industry never fluctuated by more than 15% at any given time. In the past two years, they’ve increased by 50%, with some cuts of beef reaching 70%

UW Provisions’ Ron Krantz, echoed Markhardt’s concerns. Krantz say he hasn’t been able to get some of his top-selling meats due to labor issues.

“The stuff that’s labor-intensive has gotten a lot more expensive to buy,” said Krantz. “A lot of it has to do with the labor shortage.”

Vendors aren’t the only ones suffering. Livestock farmers are feeling the sting, too.

“The farmers aren’t seeing any of the gains of these prices,” said Markhardt. “I know of big growers that have had to sit on cattle for months because there was just no place to go with them at the time.”

With the winter holidays coming up, one thing is certain: Meat isn’t a guarantee.

“I don’t know what’s going to be out there,” said Markhardt. “I don’t think anybody can really tell you what’s going to be out there.”