‘Muscle memory’ will help ag sector with future disasters

The U.S. agrifood industry was caught off guard by supply chain problems that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. But the ‘muscle memory’ gained through the experience will be helpful in future disruptive events, a Hormel Foods leader said.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Kira_Yan | Bigstock)
(Kira_Yan | Bigstock)

The U.S. agrifood industry was caught off guard by supply chain problems that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. But the ‘muscle memory’ gained through the experience will be helpful in future disruptive events, a Hormel Foods leader said.

During the webinar, “Impacts of COVID-19 on Minnesota’s Food and Ag Supply Chain,” Richard Carlson, Hormel Foods vice president of quality management, said during the early spring, there was “a lot of chaos in the supply chain,” including struggles for Hormel to get hogs and turkeys processed at its plants amid staffing shortages brought on by illness.

However, the industry adapted well to the challenges, and during recent upticks in COVID-19 cases, those challenges earlier in the year are not quite as difficult to handle. Additionally, the lessons learned during the early stages of the pandemic will serve the industry well in the future, Carlson said.

“I think the supply chain broadly is going to be much more better prepared to handle things like this,” said Carlson.

“I think the thing that we are developing here is a little bit like muscle memory. We have been fortunate in our working careers to never have experienced a significant disruption. We might have dealt with a blizzard, or there might have been some other unfavorable market conditions, but to experience something this significant, we’ve never had to deal with that.”

While Hormel Foods and other businesses had pandemic influenza plans, Carlson said Hormel’s were written so long ago, “they were really outdated because of technology and really not that useful.”

“We’re developing some muscle memory that we can use to face additional crises, whatever those are going to be, once we clear the COVID pandemic,” said Carlson. “Hopefully we won’t see another pandemic like this for a really long time, but I’m confident that if there is something else on the heels of this one, that we’re going to be a lot better prepared to address it.”

Also during the webinar, held on December 16, Carlson shared his viewpoints on decisions related to worker safety. The webinar was hosted by the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI).

Hormel Foods, a diversified food company, is one of the leading pork producers in the United States, and is the parent company of the nation’s second largest turkey producer, Jennie-O Turkey Store.

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

Page 1 of 1590
Next Page