Eli Priest and Mace Taylor from Mega Meats Booval. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Eli Priest and Mace Taylor from Mega Meats Booval. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Butchers under the pump due to ‘manic‘ panic buying of meat

BUTCHERS are not being spared the "manic" panic buying being seen in supermarkets, with some selling meat as soon as it is put in the window.

While they welcome the extra spend in their shops, they are waiting for the inevitable "bottom out" when shoppers' fridges and freezers are full to the brim.

With the price of beef at an all-time high, they are being put under serious pressure to produce as shoppers flock to their businesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coles and Woolworths have restricted shoppers from buying more than two mince products at once.

Mega Meats Booval owner Dean Taylor won't be putting any restrictions on the sale of his products and said he was serving plenty of people who had come from supermarkets that had run out of meat.

"We're absolutely flat out," he said.

"We produce our stuff in the shop. The supermarkets with their supply chain can't just do it on the spot.

"We enjoy being busy. That's great and all but all our staff are under a lot of stress. We've been working long hours. One of the benefits out of all this is they might how good a shop we actually are."

Mr Taylor said the drought and recent bushfires had created the "perfect storm" to drive the price of meat up.

"There is a worldwide protein shortage," he said.

"In 35 years, I've never spent so much money on meat. Ten years ago my Sunday stock was $60,000 and now it's $100,000 and it's no more (meat). It's just dearer. We've never paid so much for meat."

Mr Taylor said his suppliers were cutting back and putting their prices up.

"What I'm being promised, I'm not getting," he said.

"People are accusing us, and not just us, of profiteering.

"We're at the end of the food chain. People don't see the processes of the wholesalers."

Schulte's in Plainland was experiencing much of the same.

The long-running family business just off the Warrego Highway is just down the road from a Woolworths.

Company administrator Melinda Schulte said mince and sausages were flying out of the shop window.

Such was the demand to stock up, some customers had even asked to pay for meat using Afterpay.

"We've had a lot of customers through, maybe close to an extra 30 per cent each day," she said.

"Some days it's even more.

"Woolworths next door to us has been manic.

"We're seeing people bulk buy more than they've done in years. They're getting a couple of kilos of things. Sometimes eight or nine kilos of sausages at a time."

The shop was not at risk of running out of meat.

"We're lucky we process our own cattle," she said.

"We've got our own abattoir and we make our sausages. If we're down on certain types of sausages, we'll make another bundle.

"At the moment we're making it, putting it in the window and selling it.

"We have deliveries coming every day. We almost sold out of chicken (on Tuesday) and it only came in (that morning)."

Mrs Schulte said the business was enjoying the rush but they wary it isn't going to last.

"The concern is the amount people are buying," she said.

"People are going to have so much stock in their cupboards. That's the fear in retailers' minds.

"After each rush we have that big bottom out. Sometimes it can bottom out really drastically. The concern is we turn all of this product over now but what happens if our staff start to get sick and we have to support them."

Mrs Schulte said the price of cattle was at an "unprecedented high" and the cost of running a business was only spiralling.

"It's really hard to cover overheads," she said.

"Our power is through the roof. We don't have a lot of margins these days.

"The standard overheads of running a business and paying for power, water, staff and taxes is so high.

"We've had a couple of staff leave for different reasons and we haven't replaced them. We can't afford to."

Both butchers had the same advice as Prime Minister Scott Morrison - panic buying was not necessary.

"People are panic buying for no reason," Mr Taylor said.

"I haven't stocked up on anything. People need to just relax and look after themselves and their families and look after each other. It's an unprecedented time."