Happy belated Thanksgiving to all, as unusual as this holiday might have been for many of us. Here in the Hanacek household, we kept it low-key this year. Typically, we host my parents, brothers and sisters-in-law and my wife’s parents, and I fry up a big ol’ bird for the group. However, like many families out there, we kept our distance, which meant I didn’t need such a big turkey. The boneless turkey breast I roasted worked perfectly for my family this year, despite the loss of tradition.

However, today, news that the United Kingdom has approved a COVID-19 vaccine has come down the pike, and I’m sure many people are excited to hear what that means for us in the United States. It means that maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

As a meat and poultry processor, you should be excited too. Worrying about the health of your employees and families can ease – however, as an industry, we shouldn’t take our feet off the gas pedal on employee safety, of course.

Andy Hanacek

Another area in which the meat and poultry industry absolutely must maneuver to address is the significant influx of at-home cooks that the pandemic forcefully created. Many people who might have gone out for a meal had little choice but to buy their protein at a store and figure out a way to cook it at home. I didn’t hear of any mass starvations, so I suspect that means most people succeeded at such endeavors!

But, if there’s one thing society has proven time and again, it’s the ability to revert back to “the way things were” pretty easily. On employee safety, there’s absolutely no way the industry should walk back the precautions it has taken to keep employees healthy unless they truly interfere with efficiency – but then, why walk those back? Why not innovate a BETTER solution?

Through the better part of six months of this pandemic, retailers were reporting immense increases, year-over-year in meat and poultry sales. If you’re on social media, you no doubt saw an increase in roasted/fried turkey photos on Thursday and Friday, often with a caption similar to “I’ve never cooked a turkey before…check it out!” and things like that.

Let’s jump on this as an industry and really ramp up the marketing, the product offerings and the deals to keep those at-home chefs buying and cooking their meat and poultry items at home. We don’t want to hurt our foodservice customers, of course, but the opportunity to remind consumers that “you got this!” when it comes to cooking is an opportunity to remind them that meat and poultry products are a kitchen chef’s menu staple that need not be feared!