By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) — Less meat at your grocery store? It could happen.

As more meat processing plants close because of the coronavirus, concerns grow about problems with the nation’s food supply.

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CBS 2’s Jim Williams had the story Monday.

That nice steak or hamburger?  It didn’t just get to the grocery store from the farm. It went to a meat processing plant. A lot of that work has come to a stop because of COVID-19, and you will soon see the impact.

At Mariano’s and Pete’s Market in the western suburbs, there was plenty of meat on Monday: beef, pork, all kinds of cuts.

But University of Illinois Champaign professor Megan Konar said there are now “choke points” in our meat supply.

“Livestock is now backing up on farms,” she said. Animals are “backing up on farms” because there are now fewer places to get meat ready for the grocery store.

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Several meat processing plants are closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks, including two Smithfield plants in Illinois. Tyson Foods took out a full page ad in Sunday’s New York Times, warning: “as pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain.”

Which could mean fewer choices at the grocery store.

“There might be a lag where in a couple of weeks time we might see shortages and that’s because right now farmers are having to kill baby animals, baby pigs, just because they don’t have the space,” Konar said.

And that is creating an enormous hardship for livestock farmers who now can’t move their animals off the farm.

Jennifer Tirey leads the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

“They are going to put them out of business, potentially,” Tirey said. “They’re still spending money to feed the animals, to house the animals, to pay the labor to take care of the animals but there’s nowhere for them to pass on their costs.”

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Farmers said if the situation doesn’t improve, they’ll have no choice but to kill cattle, hogs, and chickens. They can’t afford to keep them on the farm.