From farm to fork, the American food supply chain is feeling the pinch of the coronavirus. Three main forces have been at work: consumers stockpiling food, suppliers closing or curtailing businesses, and grocery stores struggling to keep up with demand. As meat processors such as Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill and JBS USA continue to shut down plants or furlough workers, meat industry analysts predict temporary shortages for products such as pork. Thankfully, millions of pounds of meat remain in cold storage, so experts don’t foresee long-term food shortages.
However, in the near future, consumers may have difficultly finding the particular products they are used to buying. For instance, Mississippi-based chicken processor, Sanderson Farms, has considered selling only whole chickens instead of cut-up parts to reduce labor and risk of illness at its facilities. Disruptions may also occur in beef and pork supplies, forcing consumers to get creative with different cuts of meat.
At grocery stores, consumers can also do their part to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union urges shoppers to adhere to social distancing recommendations, wear masks, and touch grocery store items as little as possible to reduce the risk of illness among grocery store workers.