How The Meat Shortage Will Change The Way You Grocery Shop

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
As if collecting groceries wasn't already labored enough. You stalk the grocery delivery services until you land a delivery spot, but then half your cart is out of stock by the time you check out. You gameplan ways to work around or supplement your now misshapen grocery order: Do you make a quick run to the grocery store? Order three side salads and six chicken breasts through takeout to have some lunch for the week? Now, on top of all that, we have a meat shortage to contend with.
Food availability is more volatile now than ever: first, it was a yeast shortage and then a flour shortage. While each of these is a result of a new generation of enthusiastic home cooks making trendy recipes en masse, the meat shortage is a symptom of a much bigger issue.
This week, Wendy's announced that hundreds of its locations, some estimating about 18%, are no longer serving beef. Major grocers are implementing per-customer limits on meat purchases. Some Kroger locations have a 2-pack limit per person for all "fresh chicken, pork, beef, and ground beef." Similarly, Costco has a three-pack cap on fresh beef, poultry, and pork.
But what caused the shortage? Meat-packing plants across the country have shut down due to novel coronavirus outbreaks. While grocery store demand for meat and poultry products is actually going up, it's not enough to make up for the loss from restaurant meat demands. So America's biggest meat producers, like Tyson Foods, are feeling the pressure to "feed America" during the pandemic.
Cases like that of Tyson Foods worker Annie Grant, who was called into work despite having a fever only to die on a ventilator a few days later (soon followed by two other coworkers), made headlines last month. Tyson Foods is just one of the many meat suppliers forced to shut down several processing plants in April, and consumers are just now starting to feel the effects of the disruption.
Tyson Foods, America's largest meat producers, said more plant shutdowns are likely, as it's more important to stop the spread of COVID-19 than it is to stock the meat aisles at supermarkets. So it should come at no surprise that meat-lovers are only now seriously considering meat-like alternatives like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which have recently reported spikes in demand.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series