Poultry producers expect to be dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 for at least another six months, according to a new survey.

In the third quarter of 2020, a majority of respondents to the WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index said they expect COVID-19 to impact their operations until Spring 2021 or the end of 2021.

As part of the quarterly survey, WATT Global Media is asking additional questions about the state of the poultry industry as well as emerging trends, technologies and challenges. This blog post reflects the results of the supplemental questions included in the third quarter survey conducted in August 2020. The next installment of Dr. Greg Rennier’s column reflecting the results of this survey will be published in the October issue of WATT PoultryUSA.

COVID-19 outbreak continues

Nearly six months after the outbreak began in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to define daily life. After temporary lockdowns, states and cities re-opened during the summer but new infections continue to appear.

Some hallmarks of American life are returning, but with severe restrictions. With the new school year beginning in late August and early September, some students are returning to class while others stay home. How long in-person classes will continue remains in question as students contract the virus and some schools and universities decide to suspend in-person learning. Organized sports are returning without fans or with a strictly limited number of fans. Restaurants and bars are reopening, but with attendance limits and mandatory mask wearing orders in effect.  

There is some progress made on vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus, but it appears the pandemic is far from over in both the U.S. and abroad.

We asked, “Has your processing, hatchery, live haul, feed mill or field vaccination operations done any of the following in response to COVID-19? (Please check all that apply)” 

  • 90% responded, “Required additional personal protective equipment for workers.”
  • 81% responded, “Added additional social distancing practice by staggering breaks and moving workers outside for breaks.”
  • 81% responded, “Added additional written messaging (posters, message boards, etc.) about COVID prevention.”
  • 80% responded, “Elevated sanitation practices in and around the plant.”
  • 63% responded, “Added additional worker training programs for COVID-19 prevention.”
  • 56% responded, “Added barriers between workers on processing lines.”
  • 19% responded, “Slowed line speeds.”

We asked, “How has COVID-19 affected your ability to staff your operation?”

  • 64% responded, “Staffing my operation is more challenging than it was before March 2020.
  • 33% responded, “My staffing levels are the same as before March 2020.”
  • 3% responded, “Staffing my operation is less challenging than it was before March 2020.”

We asked, “How long do you expect COVID-19 to impact your operations?”

  • 30% responded, “Until the end of 2021.”
  • 25% responded, “Until the end of spring 2021.”
  • 16% responded, “Until the end of 2020.”
  • 9% responded, “Until the end of winter 2020.”
  • 8% responded, “COVID-19 is not significantly affecting my business.”
  • 5% responded, “Two or more years from now.”
  • 4% responded, “Forever.”
  • 2% responded, “Until the end of fall 2020.”

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