Supermarket executives warn that a meat shortage could hit its peak next month with many stores facing elevated prices and empty shelves.
Plant closures amid the coronavirus pandemic have led to dwindling supplies of steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops, and cold cuts. Industry sources told the New York Post that products will become less available as more plants close.
President Donald Trump advised on Tuesday that meat-processing plants should remain open despite large numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks among workers.
Consumers can expect a high shortage of meat supplies in the next couple of weeks. "The last two weeks in May will be the peak of the meat crisis. The plants that have remained open are only operating at 40 percent to 50 percent capacity," Victor Colello, meat supervisor for the Morton Williams chain of supermarkets, predicts.
Morton Williams owner Avi Kaner told the Post, "Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to produce our weekly sales circular, which we generate three weeks in advance. But with the shutdown of meat plants, it's difficult to say today what the price of our meat will be three weeks from now."
Tyson Foods predicts the loss of millions of pounds of meat after they were forced to close the biggest pork plan in the US.
Chief executive Stew Leonard said, "Boar's Head used to send us 80 different items, but now we are focusing on our top sellers - turkey, ham, and roast beef - instead of liverwurst, bologna, and ham with olives and others."
Additionally, consumers might find that their favorite brands of meat products are nowhere to be found.
President Dan Romanoff of Nebraskaland, a meat wholesaler in the Bronx, says, "The biggest change for consumers will be brands that they used to get might not be available. We are doing business with vendors we've never done business with before to fill in our inventory gaps."
Stores are debating putting limits on how much meat customers can buy at one time, depending on how much the supply dwindles.
Chest freezers used to store meats for long periods of time have been selling out at Home Depots, with some locations having the item on backorder until August.
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