Is there a meat shortage?

You may have seen Tyson Foods warning that the U.S. “food supply chain is breaking” and fresh meat may be in limited supply in parts of the country. In the United States, meat processing plants are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks due to crowded working conditions. Over the past few decades the size of the average size of these processing plants has grown larger while the number of total processing plants has declined. A temporary closure of a few of these plants may result in limited availability or higher prices for fresh meat in your supermarket in the upcoming weeks. New guidelines from the CDC are attempting to improve safety for workers at these plants in order to prevent outbreaks and further closures.  

Despite these concerns, you should not “panic” buy as this will cause greater strain on the  food system. In addition, there is still a large supply of frozen meat in the United States.

If meat options are limited the next time you go to the supermarket, consider alternative sources of protein such as fish, canned beans, or plant based proteins. Plant proteins, when paired correctly, can provide the same nutritional value as animal source proteins. And they have the added bonuses of containing less saturated fat and being more environmentally friendly.  


Last updated:  April 29, 2020, 9:00 AM ET
Science review:  HY, ERS