Is There No Meat Shortage?

A month ago, news came out that the meat processing plants were being reduced in capacity.   However, it appears so far there’s no meat shortage, at least not widespread.

Huge instances in COVID-19 were being reported.  It was reported plants had to keep people away so they wouldn’t spread the virus.

I’ve heard nothing about this when it comes to vegetarian or vegan processing circles.  None of them were shutting down.  None of their workers were getting sick!  They’re “ramping up” and thriving!

Curious, eh?

no meat shortage

Why only meat?  Why only pork, chicken, and beef?

On April 28th, I wrote an article in response to the news.   I was skeptical of the news at face value but laid out a plan to follow just in case there was some truth to this.

I even lobbied for the PRIME Act, which would help local farmers, processors, and butchers remove a crucial layer of red tape in trying to get product to you, the consumer.

What did I find?

My trips to the store have been positive when I’ve searched for meat.  BJ’s Wholesale, Winn-Dixie, and Publix have all had meat in abundance when I’ve visited.  Every single time.

The only problem I had finding anything was cube steak!  There was none on the shelf on three separate visits to two different stores.  No biggie.  I just bought ground beef or pork instead.  The store must have run out of cube steak by the time I got there.   I did eventually find some when I went to the store at around lunchtime.

We were told that the shortages would begin to show after a week or so.  Maybe as soon as that following weekend.

One month in…nothing so far.

How is the media handling this?

They’re doubling down.  In spite of what you and I see at the stores, they’re reporting the opposite.

Wendy’s has apparently run into problems finding beef for hamburgers at some of their locations.  That was a short-lived problem–a simple lag in the chain.

They’re showing pictures of empty shelves.  Were the pictures taken in March when I did, in fact, experience meat shortages?

At that time, stores were experiencing panic buying, in the form of people buying mass quantities of meat and freezing it.

These people bought more meat than they could consume in a reasonable amount of time.  They quit buying meat as a result, and inventories pretty quickly rebounded.

Is meat more expensive than it was before?  Possibly.  I haven’t really noticed an uptick in price for beef, chicken, or pork.  If there is a price difference, it’s a very minimal one.   Perhaps stores just aren’t running as many specials, which would make sense if they’re concerned with the inventory.

Fake Meat

The CNET article went on to discuss the impact this is having on the artificial meat industry.

Keep in mind, these products are heavily processed with many ingredients.  They are made in a plant, and also have to have staff on hand.

The article points out that Impossible Foods and their people, “haven’t been impacted by the Coronavirus.”


Their workers are somehow immune to the virus but meat workers are susceptible?

According to Impossible Foods, their top ingredient is soy, so this requires fewer employees?

The other ingredients include, “Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.”

There are arguably more people behind the scenes than is being let on.

The vitamins are supplemented (none of the vitamin makers seem to be affected by COVID-19), whereas those very same vitamins are simply an inherent part of beef.  Therefore, no need to list those as ingredients, just as vitamins.

Through it all, their production didn’t lag.

The “alternative” market

Interestingly, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have seen a 150% increase in sales.

no meat shortage

Is this in part a way to get the public looking at meat alternatives?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle, as it often is.

Impossible Meat is in twenty times more grocery stores right now than at the beginning of this year.  Did Impossible Meat seize an opportunity?  No doubt.

Will Impossible Meat and other meatless alternatives sustain their growth once people see that meat is still in abundance?  That remains to be seen.

Sure, people will try meat alternatives.  But in the end, do you want “alternatives,” or do you want the real thing?

No meat shortage?  Is it on the horizon?

My recommendation of how to proceed with buying of meat is exactly what I said a month ago.

Re-stock on beef, chicken, and pork every couple of days.  Look for deals on fish too.  Seafood processing doesn’t seem to be as much of a concern, although Oregon did have some cases at a few plants.

The media’s doubling-down of a meat shortage could provoke panic buying.  By now, people who engaged in the previous panic buying episode back in March have burned through their excess and could be looking to buy more and stuff their freezers.

no meat shortage

This would, in fact, lead to a shortage of meat.  I’m more concerned about panic.  In spite of the hype, meat processors are doing everything they can to keep things going as smoothly as possible.

Keep your food inventory running smoothly by taking a first-in, first-out approach.

Remember to take things out of the freezer two days ahead of time.  This will save an “I forgot to take it out of the freezer” moment in your household.

This requires planning 48 hours out.  Plan Wednesday’s meal on Monday, Thursday’s on Tuesday, etc.  I’ve discussed tips on meal planning previously.

But most of all–don’t panic buy.  Meat shortage or no meat shortage, be prudent.

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