What’s Going on With Our Food Supply? Part 2

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Today we want to discuss more of your questions regarding the current state of our food supply.

Q. Why are we hearing that some farms are considering euthanizing animals?

A. Farms are like other businesses, they only have the space required to produce their product. For example, a swine farmer has only the needed space for the animals he or she produces. This is the same as a car dealer. They only have a sales lot for the number of cars they sell. With Covid-19 came challenges that our food supply system had no way of predicting. Our protein (meat) processing system serves us well with an abundance of fresh, wholesome, safe and cheap food but it wan’t ready to handle the challenges that Covid-19 presented. These challenges forced shutdowns to protect workers. These shutdowns result in farmers not being able to send animals for harvest, so sometimes they run out of room for animals on the farm. With limited space, and a need to protect animal health and safety, some farms had to resort to humane euthanizing of a limited number of animals. No farmer wants to do this. They have too much time, effort, care and money invested in the animals they care for, but sometimes there is no choice left. Farmers are going to unheard of efforts to prevent this, to the point of losing money and risking their very livelihoods to avoid this.

Q. Are we running out of food?

A. Many mainstream news outlets are asking if our country is facing a food shortage. The answer is a resounding, NO! Thousands of our amazing American farmers are producing and delivering the food for our country. Now sometimes there are bare spots on grocery shelves. This is due to a slowdown in the processing chain for many products. These slowdowns are slowly starting to resolve with a return to work in these facilities. Our farmers have an abundance of items on their farms and ranches waiting to fill these processing facilities to be converted into the products we are accustomed to having on grocery store shelves. The best thing WE as consumers can do is to not buy in excess and be patient as we move forward through this unparalleled time. There will be food, our farmers are the best in the world, and they will provide food for us, it’s what they do!

Q. Are we throwing away eggs?

A. Not all eggs that are produced end up on our breakfast plates. Some eggs are used to produce the chicken that is harvested for meat. With processing slowdowns, the number of chickens that can be processed into meat products is decreased. To help with this, some eggs are being diverted into items such as pet foods. If you read a pet food label it may say “poultry byproducts”. This would be an example of where some eggs may be going. Farmers who produce eggs are still being paid and there will be enough eggs to fill processing facilities with chicken for meat as the continued reopening of processing facilities continues.

**The following question was asked through the “Feedback” section of this page.**

Q. Why are meat prices going up?

A. Great question! The answer is that with decreased processing there is a decrease in the amount of meat coming out to distributors/stores. At this point the law of Supply and Demand takes over. With a limited supply coming out and demand up for end product, then there is competition for products. This means higher prices for the retailer and thus the consumer. On a side note, processing capability is on the upswing so the volatility in pricing should lessen over time.

Written By

Bryan Cave, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionBryan CaveCounty Extension Director Call Bryan E-mail Bryan N.C. Cooperative Extension, Surry County Center
Updated on May 11, 2020
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