Florida meat producers see demand surge as U.S. meat processors struggle with COVID-19

Mornings on Circle C Farm in Felda start as they always have. 

Rise with the sun, tend to the cattle, herd a flock of turkey escapees back to their patch of the pasture, see what fresh trouble the pigs have raised. 

It's a routine owner Nicole Cruz knows well. And it's one that, mid-pandemic, has never felt more vital. 

"We have seen a consistent and continued increase in orders, and we're still seeing that on a daily basis," Cruz said. 

"People are looking for meat where they know where it's coming from. They know how we operate, by hand and humanely, but on top of that, we're not a big plant. This isn't some large-scale, industrial process at work. It's much smaller. It's much more controlled."

More:Meat shortages expected as coronavirus disrupts production

And:Sweet Tomatoes buffet chain closing 97 restaurants including Fort Myers, Naples

As the COVID-19 crisis rages on, industrial meat processing has proven to be a weak point of the American food-supply chain. U.S. slaughterhouses processed nearly a million fewer animals in the final week of April than they did in the same week of 2019. 

Coronavirus outbreaks have shuttered an alarming number of America’s meatpacking facilities in recent weeks, with at least 4,400 workers falling ill across 80 plants, causing 28 of them to close for at least one day, according to data compiled by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in a study published April 30. 

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