Our Food Supply System Is Shaky, but It's Not Breaking, Say Experts

Meat and poultry shelves are nearly empty in a Maryland grocery store in mid-March. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In the early days of thecoronavirus pandemic当杂货店储存在供应时,杂货店货架很快被剥离。此外卫生纸and cleaning products, it was exceedingly difficult to find chicken and meat, dairy products and many food staples. Now, several weeks later, most stores have restocked many of those basics. Depending on where and when you go, you might be able to find everything on your shopping list.

As most restaurants nationwide are closed for dine-in service and Americans are cooking most meals at home, the national food supply is under unusual stress. Experts say yes, it's facing many challenges, but it should be able to deal with them.

Pork facility shuts down


“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply. It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running," said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, for Smithfield, ina statement。"These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals.”

The facility supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week — which represents about 4% to 5% of the country's pork production — and employs 3,700 people, according to Smithfield.

南达科他州克里斯蒂·克里斯蒂诺姆说,史密斯菲尔德员工占了该州的一半以上的活跃冠状病毒during a news briefing。About 240 employees are sick, she said, out of that state's roughly 430 active cases.

问题不仅仅是在史密斯菲尔德。由于生病的员工,肉类处理器也在爱荷华州和宾夕法尼亚州关闭,CNN reports

Consumers aren't likely to see impacts of these closings right now, so there shouldn't be a rush to stock up on meat the grocery store. There's plenty of meat inventory, Christine McCracken, senior analyst of animal protein for Rabobank, tells CNN.

number of closed plants represents a small part of the overall business. But if more plants close because of employee sickness, then things could change.



“In order for our industry to continue manufacturing, we must have access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for our employees to do their jobs – or there is potential that facilities will be shut down,” Betsy Booren, senior vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the Consumer Brands Association (CBA), the industry trade group for grocery store products,告诉山丘。“联邦政府必须为我们的行业提供PPE,以便避免主要供应链中断。”

Grocery workers on the front lines

Lorena Martinez穿着面具和手套,因为她在迈阿密一家超市的收银员工作。 Joe Raedle / Getty Images

When food makes it through to retail, grocery store workers are the key to making sure it's available to consumers. But stores are dealing with an increasing number of sick employees as well as those who are afraid to come to work.

“One of the biggest mistakes supermarkets made early on was not allowing employees to wear masks and gloves the way they wanted to,” analyst Phil Lempert告诉华盛顿邮政。一些杂货店最初要求员工不要穿面具和手套,因为他们担心它会吓唬购物者。

The Post reported that workers at Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Giant have died from the virus. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million grocery store, food processing and meat packing employees, told The New York Times that as of April 13, at least 1,500 of its members had been infected with the coronavirus and 30 of them had died.

Workers have constant exposure to each other and to customers who may be infected. Many must find their own protective gear, even though the government deems them essential workers who must report to work.

That pressure has led to new calls for their protection. Kroger and Albertsons, America's two largest grocery chains, along with the union group UFCW, have appealed to federal and state officials to将员工指定为“紧急人员”。If workers gain that status, it would put them in line to receive safety equipment and testing, a means to keeping grocery stores safe and functioning.



Now, grocery store meat cases are starting to fill up again, and chicken prices are dropping. Restaurants have stopped buying in bulk and shoppers who stocked up are starting to use what they've amassed in their freezers.

"Consumers who stockpiled are destocking," economist Will Sawyer of the agricultural lender CoBank tellsThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Prices fell by about 20 cents in a week, which is a lot, Sawyer says.

一个April 3 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)shows prices dropping significantly for whole chickens, breasts and wings. Thighs and wings were more expensive.

因为餐馆没有订购他们通常的鸡肉量,很多植物都被滞后了,reports the USDA。植物正在努力将家禽包装从食品服务转移到零售,报告亚特兰大杂志,但它正在慢慢发生,同时保持员工在大流行期间安全。

Poultry plants face the same threat as other meat processing factories. Employees work in very close conditions where the virus could spread rapidly among them.

What's happening to milk

戴着面具的一辆卡车司机在3月中旬通过纽约市驾驶。 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While some consumers are having a hard time finding dairy products, some dairy farmers have been asked to dump their milk. Despite massive demand, disruptions in the food supply chain means they can't get it to market and to the consumers who want it,报道路透社

美国最大的美国奶牛场(DFA)奶牛场(DFA)告诉新闻出口,它已经询问了一些7,500名成员来倾倒牛奶,但没有说多少。乳房农民Jason Leedle of Chicago表示,他上周从他的480奶牛甩了4,700加仑的牛奶。


Leedle and other farmers will get paid by the cooperatives for the milk they are discarding, but they won't make as much as they would if they were taking it to market.

Food waste is a growing problem

A pile of zucchini and squash was discarded by a farmer in Florida City, Florida, in early April.
A pile of zucchini and squash was discarded by a farmer in Florida City, Florida, in early April. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

因为学校食堂,餐馆和学院用餐大厅不再需要食物,食物垃圾正在成为一个大问题。yabo彩票除了奶制农民倾销牛奶外,农民还直接转化为覆盖物,因为他们没有办法将它直接掌握在个人公司的手中而不是大规模的运营中,Politco reports

"The way a client described it is they're seeing a tsunami of demand shift from foodservice to food retail," Bahige El-Rayes, a partner in the consumer and retail practice at Kearney, a consulting firm, tells Politico. "If you're a manufacturer today of food, it's basically how do you adapt? How do you actually take what you sent to restaurants then sell it now to retail?"

The site reports that supermarket chain Kroger is partnering with Sysco and U.S. Foods, two companies that normally work with restaurants and institutions. They're sharing labor and keeping inventory stocked.

But for consumers, it's frustrating to see so much food wasted. There needs to be a way to get it to the people who need it. The government needs to help by buying food from growers and transporting it to food banks, Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who served as secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration,told CNN

“这是一个级联的一系列事件是disrupting the entire food chain," Vilsack said. "You start ending school lunch programs, universities shut down, food service shuts down, tourism and hotels have low occupancy and at the end of the day you have a tremendous amount of the overall supply of food having to be redirected."

There will be enough food

在3月下旬,购物者在丹佛的贸易伙伴们举行了最低限度。 Barry Dale Gilfry [Cc By-SA 2.0] / Flickr


Industry experts believe the food is there; it just needs to get to consumers.

"There will be enough food produced on the farm," Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told今日美国。But "there’s a lot of things that happen to the food before it gets to the consumer, whether it be in processing or transportation. If this thing was to get worse, what problems come along with that? None of us really know."

With plant closures, high demand, and problems with food getting to who needs it, there will continue to be shortages in high-demand foods.

“当您想要它时,您可能无法获得您想要的内容,”纽约州rabobank的肉类行业分析师克里斯汀麦克兰·麦克拉克The New York Times。“消费者喜欢有很多不同的选择,而现实是在短期内,我们只是没有劳动来实现这一点。”

然而,加利福尼亚州农业问题大学董事Dan Sumner董事今日告诉美国,总体粮食供应短缺。

"The food supply chain is remarkably resilient and effective," Sumner said. "Sure there are little inconveniences. But the basics are in great shape."