Could there be food shortages this fall? This is what you need to know

Young woman standing in front of an empty shelf in a supermarket

Getty Images / ArtMarie

The Thanksgiving table may be a little bare this year, thanks to nationwide food shortages expected to make everything from turkey to canned cranberry sauce more scarce this fall.

“It was hard to buy products during the pandemic last year, but it’s just as hard now,” said Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of the supermarket chain Stew Leonard’s. TODAY in an email this week. “But we’re seeing a shortage of fresh produce like Thanksgiving turkey, fresh fish, and mid-cut steaks like rib-eye and porterhouse.”

Several factors come together to create a shortage just in time for the start of the holiday season. First, labor shortages have spread across almost every supply chain. Not only does it make it harder to grow, grow, and grow food, but it also means that sometimes food is just waiting on ships or railroad cars to be unloaded by workers who aren’t there.

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“We’re having trouble getting New Zealand lamb as there are ships waiting to be unloaded at the dock because there aren’t enough dock workers,” Leonard said.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to get better. Farms in dire need of farmhands also compete for workers with the service industry, which requires less grueling physical labor and often pays more.

“Finding people who want to work on farms is now even more challenging than before. We are always in short supply,” Jayne Sebright, executive director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, a Pennsylvania farmer’s advocacy group, told the newspaper. Associated Press in July.

That means processing plants can no longer pump out as many chickens, turkeys and other meats as before — and you’ll see fewer of them in the grocery store. You may even notice that it’s harder to get pet food because manufacturers rely on meat by-products. (Here is what you need to know about meat shortages.)

Then there is the aluminum shortage. all the hoarding canned goods at the start of the pandemic led to shortages of the metal, which is up 40% in price since the beginning of the year and 9% this month, according to Jayson L. Lusk, chief of Purdue University’s department of agricultural economics. That means you shouldn’t be surprised if the supermarket shelves aren’t completely stocked with canned goods.

And it looks like Lunchables will continue to be the unicorn of the school lunchroom. It’s not clear exactly why the beloved kids’ meals have disappeared from the shelves in addition to demand, but they remain relatively hard to find.

Still, none of this is cause for alarm, as shortages don’t seem as widespread as they were at the start of 2020 and in most cases can be avoided with a little planning — like ordering a frozen turkey ahead of time in November.

“It’s not like at the beginning of the pandemic, when people went out to clear shelves and panicked,” said Katie Denis, vice president of research for the Consumer Brands Association. Taste of Home.