Updated: Feb 26, 2013 5:56 PM
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The government's battle over the so-called sequestration could land right in your kitchen.
Mandatory government budget cuts are set to start March 1, unless Congress steps in. The cuts could impact the food you eat, especially meat.
Photos: Sequester concerns local butchers
Leonard Brooke, co-owner of Southern Packing Corporation in Chesapeake, said his father built up the business from the ground up.
"We've been in business roughly 75 years," Brooke said.
"I would imagine 80 or 90 percent of the meat in this country is processed under federal meat inspection."
Every day, a USDA inspector comes to Southern Packing to make sure the operation is up to code.
Sequestration's across-the-board cuts could land the USDA with a $51 million reduction in operations, meaning fewer inspectors and potential closings of meat and poultry plants.
"We can't work if the USDA is not working," one employee said.
"The inspectors don't know if they are going to be furloughed permanently or part time," Brooke said. "If so, what's going to happen to the meat industry?"
Eventually, the steak which would end up on your table will cost you more.
"If the processing in this country gets cut in half, prices will sky rocket, because there will be a shortage," Brooke said.
Without daily inspections, Southern Packing could have to close its doors a few days per week.
There's no other way to slice it. Southern Packing employees know something needs to be done to make sure their company stays open another 75 years.
"I think our government needs to get their butt and get to work. Quit acting like little kids," one employee told 10 On Your Side.
The USDA sent letters to congress saying furloughed inspectors could cause up to 15 days of a nationwide meat and poultry production shutdown.
The agency said it would do 2,100 fewer food safety inspections which could lead to more foodborne illnesses.
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