The birds don’t quit growing or laying eggs if your customers cancel orders, and the birds don’t lay more eggs or grow faster when all of your customers double their regular orders.

Facilities designed to efficiently produce made-to-order specially sized foodservice products on a just-in-time basis can’t turn on a dime and bring in different size birds to produce retail packages of meat and parts. Inline breaking facilities can’t start packing graded eggs in retail cartons overnight. The entire poultry supply chain has been disrupted by the closing of foodservice operations for in-home dining and the resulting dramatic increase in retail sales.

The dual primary objectives of every poultry operation are to fill customer orders and send all the workers home safely at the end of each shift. The pandemic has made these objectives harder to achieve than ever.

The only situations that I can relate to the current experience are the times plants I worked in were impacted by major snowstorms, floods or an exploded transformer. Each of these situations, to varying degrees, challenged us to get the birds processed in a timely, humane manner while fulfilling customer orders and getting workers home safely. But it only took a matter of days for the snow to be plowed, for flood waters to recede or for a new transformer to be installed.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-caused disruption has continued for weeks, turning into months. It is hard for me to fathom all the challenges that poultry operations have had to overcome, and the challenges aren’t over yet.

Thanks to everyone keeping poultry operations running. Thanks for your hard work, dedication and concern for your co-workers.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.