As if Europe’s poultry producers have not had enough to cope with over the last 18 months, they now face a shortage of CO2 supplies and all the difficulties such a shortage can bring.

Europe last faced a CO2 shortage in 2018, but this time around it is expected to be worse. While there have been numerous reports of the shortage over the past week, now there is talk of animals having to be culled on farm.

The lack of CO2 in Europe is the result of fertilizer factories, from which CO2 comes as a byproduct, shutting down due a spike in gas prices, which are at a record high.

Perhaps illustrating just how difficult this price spike is proving to be, numerous smaller energy companies, unable to pass higher prices on to consumers, have gone bankrupt, while reassurances have been given that “the lights won’t out” have come from the highest levels.

But such reassurance provide little comfort for the meat industry.

In the U.K., for example, the British Poultry Council notes that two fertilizer plants there have taken the commercial decision to halt production and that alone they supply 60% of the country’s CO2, compromising the supply for several sectors.

At the time of writing, supplies were said to be down to 14 days, with suppliers reported to be not scheduling deliveries more than 24 hours in advance.

A lot worse 

The British Meat Processors Association has said that the crisis that is unfolding this year probably looks to be a lot worse than the last one in 2018. It has said that some of its members will have to stop taking animals and that logjams are already occurring in the pig industry with the prospect that animals may have to be humanely culled on farm.

The British Poultry Council is calling for government intervention, adding that, with fewer than 100 days to Christmas, and with the food industry already facing mounting labor shortages, the last thing that poultry producers need is more pressure.

When birds cannot be slaughtered and must be kept on farm there is the potential for not only food supply difficulties to arise but also welfare and food waste problems, along with food security risks, it has warned.

However, it is not only for slaughter that CO2 is needed, being also used in the vacuum packing process.  Without it the shelf life of meat could be reduced by five days.

For those who were expecting supermarket shelves to refill and restaurants to buzz as the world gradually returns to normal, there may be a way to go yet. And for the meat industry, be it poultry or any other, there would appear to be plenty more obstacles on the horizon.