Conceptualising Disruptions in British Beef and Sheep Supply Chains during the COVID-19 Crisis
Van Winden, Steven
This paper explores the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis as a disruptor to Britain’s beef and sheep supply chains. The assessment of COVID-19 impacts is based on the triangulation of farming and industry news reports, submissions to a government COVID-19 enquiry and interviews with industry experts. We find that livestock farming and farm services were least affected compared to processing, retailing, foodservice, or consumers. Primary and secondary processors continued to operate during the first COVID-19 lockdown but had to quickly become ‘COVID secure’. The most dramatic effect was the overnight closure of hospitality and catering and the redirection of supplies to the retail sector. This picture of a resilient British beef and sheep industry may also be conceptualised as relatively locked in and resistant to change. Red meat production is tied to the land it farms on and operates on 12−36-month production cycles, making it difficult to change trajectory if disruptions do not directly affect farming. Emerging changes in agricultural payments, trade post-Brexit, and societal and environmental pressures may well be the disruptors that have far-reaching impacts on the beef and sheep supply chains.