Meat plant closings raise food supply concerns

Nicholas Bertram, president of the Giant company, tells "GMA" how his company's Giant and Martin’s supermarkets are responding to food shortages due to COVID-19.
5:50 | 05/25/20

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Transcript for Meat plant closings raise food supply concerns
We begin with new questions about the food supply after those meat plant closures. The impact is still being felt at your local grocery store but how long will it last? Will reeve joins from Pittsburgh with more. Good morning to you, will. Reporter: Good morning, Michael. Usually around memorial day grocery stores have sales on hot dogs and hamburgers, but this year covid-19 has reeked havoc on the food supply chain and that's driving costs up everywhere. Memorial day might look different this morning for millions of Americans amid the pandemic. What we have seen, the disruption, across the entire food supply chain. Reporter: The nation's food industry taking a hit, reeling from the effects of covid. Authorities say food packing plants are coronavirus hot spots, along with nursing homes and correctional facilities. According to the CDC, nearly 5,000 meat packing workers at 115 facilities in 19 states have been infected with covid-19. Dozens of plants across the country closing for days or even weeks to slow or stop the spread of the virus. The facility itself did not really have the proper method in place to really protect the front line workers, and we started to see one plant after the other really got exposed. Reporter: Just last week, Tyson foods confirming 570 workers in one of their north Carolina poultry facilities tested positive for the virus. That's more than a quarter of the plant's total workforce. And it's not just meat plants. Last week at a doel fresh vegetable plant in Ohio they identified 20 cases of covid. They say the company is doing everything right in the heat of the outbreak and is working with authorities on contact tracing. Doel saying it will continue to place employee health and well-being above all else. But with supplies down, prices are surging. This month fresh beef rose 11.9% compared to last year, chicken increasing 7.5%, and the pandemic is not just affecting our meat supply this memorial day. Consumers are reportedly paying 4.5% more for carbon eighted drinks like soda and 3.8% more for snack foods. We are seeing obviously the higher prices, shortages in certain commodities, and this will continue. This impact will actually outlast the virus itself. Reporter: According to the U.S. Bureau of labor's consumer price index report, grocery bills were up 2.6% in April. That's the largest monthly increase in nearly 50 years, Michael. The shortage is being felt. Thank you so much, will. We are joined live now by Nicholas Bertram, president of the giant company, the supermarket chain operating 186 stores under the giant and martin brands from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Mr. Bertram, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We've seen shortages at super markets across the country which were pretty bad a few weeks ago, but what are you seeing right now in your stores? Good morning, Michael. I would say what we're seeing is continued improvement week over week. The entire American food supply chain has been hustling and working very hard to make sure there's more availability. We're starting to see that. We are seeing it on the side counters, in the meat departments, in our fresh meat cases and really across everything. Even though there's not the variety that consumers saw pre-covid, it's definitely improving every single week. What items are still in short supply, and when do you think those items and the availability will be back to normal? Some of the classics would be like paper goods and household cleaners. Those types of things have not yet fully recovered. You have some things in the baking aisle and spices that have not fully recovered as well. Then you've got great things like fruit and veg where if you have a great local supplier like our company does, you really didn't see any impact at all. Poultry and meat are looking good right now and beef is showing recovery, albeit a bit We see the unfortunate struggles in the meat packing plants across the country but has that affected your meat supply? I think you just said there hasn't been any effect on the meat. It was supposed to. I was visiting stores over the weekend and sent a note to our head of meat and seafood, her name is deb, and asked her where are the problems. She reminded me that she had already diversified the network and put what we call primals inside our stores. I didn't see any problems and in fact we removed limits for consumers just last week so it is coming back, Michael. A lot of consumers will be happy with that. Are you seeing surprising trends in terms of what people are buying? Exploration. People are going into more tropical fruits, exotic vegetables, specialty and ethnic meal kits are definitely on the rise. So there are some fun things that are going to come out of this even though there are still a lot of hard things that we're all getting through together. A lot of people making good out of all this. Can you tell us about precautions that your company is taking for the store workers, for the customers, to make sure that when more customers come into the store that they're safe? Yeah, safety is very important for us, especially for the 36,000 teammates that I'm responsible for. We worked really hard to get ppe available for them as soon as possible and that supply is now good. We installed shields. We limited the number of people that were in stores and do some things that customers thought were a little too far like one-way aisles but it was all about safety for our teammates and customers whenever they actually came in. As social distancing has become a bit more normal, we're able to relax certain things but there are other things that we will not relax. Thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it. Thank you, Michael. Eva.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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