If you’ve been to the grocery store in the last month, you’ve doubtlessly seen empty shelves and freezer cases. In modern-day America, such sights are completely unprecedented. It’s hard not to recall the Soviet-era grocery stores with long lines and little to buy.
Toilet paper is, of course, nowhere to be found. Flour and other baking supplies are in high demand; in fact, King Arthur Flour’s online store is almost completely sold out. And now, many people are worried that there won’t be any meat available.
That’s because multiple meatpacking plants shut down recently. Smithfield just shut down one of the largest processing plants in the country because so many of the employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Workers at the Smithfield hog plant made up almost half of all coronavirus cases in South Dakota. Other plants have closed elsewhere in the country, and Smithfield’s CEO says that the nation’s meat supply could run out.
A supply chain is just that–a chain. When one link catastrophically fails, the chain is broken. As of April 2nd, the FDA assured citizens that there was no disruption in the food supply chain.
According to that organization, “this is largely an issue of unprecedented demand – not a lack of capacity to produce, process and deliver – and manufacturers and retailers alike are working around the clock to replenish shelves.”
Despite those reassurances, there’s a chance that a fresh wave of panicked shoppers will hit the grocery stores in search of bacon and ham. Currently, there is plenty of animal protein available in the United States. A run on meat at your local grocery store could change that.
Experts also warn that, because of plant closures, you might not be able to get exactly what you want at the store. For example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts could be in short supply. If that happens, cooking with bone-in breasts, thighs or even whole birds will likely be the only option.
Consumers should also brace themselves for increased prices. While price-gouging is illegal, you may find that prices per pound slowly rise.
The biggest challenges right now are ensuring that everyone working in the food supply chain stays healthy. That may eventually result in shortages or rationing–something that the vast majority of us in America have never had to face.
The most likely scenario, however, is that you simply won’t have as much choice as you once did.
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