Meat consumption and demand took a dip during the pandemic, according to a new report from Farm Credit Canada (FCC).
“As incomes fall or prices rise (both of which happened after the first several months of the pandemic), we expect meat consumption to decline as households cut back on more expensive meals,” according to the report, which looks at the top five economic trends for Canadian agriculture and food to watch in 2022. FCC said inflation—the top trend—underlies each of the other four trends.
The report shows that consumer demand for meat shifted throughout the pandemic. Demand for chicken declined at the start of 2020—only to rebound the following year—as Canadians struggled with job and income losses and foodservice shutdowns.
Beef demand took a small plunge in Q1 2020, and then rose steadily until the end of the year. “With global demand for red meat strong in 2021 and elevated prices (December [year-over-year] retail beef inflation was 15.4%), Canadians’ purchases of, and preference for, beef have waned–the beef consumption index peaked in 2020,” FCC states.
With beef prices on the rise, it appears Canadians turned to chicken. “Chicken demand rebounded in 2021 in response to widespread foodservice re-openings and perhaps higher red meat prices inducing substitution away from red meats,” the report states.
Rounding out the trends to watch are: ongoing supply chain disruptions, global supply and demand imbalances for several major crops, and labour challenges in the food processing sector.
The report states that food processing’s labour challenges are now chronic. “At the start of 2022, more workers are employed in food manufacturing than before COVID, but businesses still can’t keep up with demand.” Unfilled orders are trending up 50% year-over-year. The latest job vacancy report (from 2021 Q3) was at 6%, up from 3.9% during the same period in 2019.
On the supply chain front, FCC says disruptions caused by shortages and backlogs in global transport networks have only added to increasing inflationary pressures. The report says there may be little relief until the second half of 2022.
“A shortage of shipping containers and truckers and the infamous semiconductor chip crunch limiting new truck production are all expected to limit supply growth. At the same time, importers’ demand for raw agricultural commodities and other manufacturing inputs is expected to remain high.”
Drought conditions, extreme weather events and surging demand since 2019 are behind the supply and demand imbalances for major crops including wheat, barley and canola.