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Shortages of This Grocery Staple Could Be Coming Soon, Experts Warn

The UK is bracing for empty shelves that could also hit the U.S. soon.
meat aisle

Many residents in the UK are facing new waves of stay-at-home lockdown orders as COVID-19 cases spread. Businesses like hair and nail salons, gyms, and other indoor activities are closed and travel is restricted. And now, experts are saying that grocery shopping may be a little harder as there could soon be a meat shortage that eventually hits the U.S., too.

Early on in the pandemic, American meatpacking plants that produce products for Smithfield and Tyson saw thousands of their employees test positive, resulting in shutdowns, shipment delays across the country, and even court cases. This was also an issue for facilities abroad. (Here are 8 Other Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)

Experts with the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association, the Food Standards Agency, the Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) say meat plant workers should be some of the earliest people to receive a vaccine to avoid cases within companies. This would help ensure the food supply chain stays intact, the president of BMPA told Food Navigator.

Although new safety rules are in place that include ample testing and healthcare workers on staff, the USDA said almost 4,000 meat plants were working at over 90% capacity this summer compared to 2019, according to Meat+Poultry. But, demand is also up as 2020 ends, with beef seeing a sales volume increase by 11.8%, pork by 15.2%, and chicken by 1.9%, according to a report released by Tyson.

"We are experiencing multiple challenges related to the pandemic," the company says. "These challenges are anticipated to increase our operating costs and negatively impact our volumes into fiscal 2021. We cannot currently predict the ultimate impact that COVID-19 will have on our short- and long-term demand, as it will depend on, among other things, the severity and duration of the COVID-19 crisis."

So, while Britain and the rest of the UK face another strict lockdown, the supply, demand, and possible subsequent meat shortage could be a prediction about the U.S. and what is to come. In the meantime, this could be an opportunity to try more plant-based recipes that require no meat but still provide all protein and other essential nutrients. Here are 33 Easy Plant-Based Recipes Even Carnivores Will Love.

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Amanda McDonald
Amanda is a staff writer for Eat This, Not That!. Read more