Last week I wrote a blog predicting sales of alternative meat would decline due to the pandemic, despite many major investments in the first quarter of 2020. My prediction was based on the assumption that grocery stores would not experience meat shortages.

While writing that blog I could not find any statistics or information about how many people experienced a meat shortage at their grocery store. Out of curiosity, I polled people on my own Facebook page.

I asked the following questions in a post:

  1. Has your local grocery store been out of meat?
  2. If so, what products?
  3. Has it been out of eggs?
  4. If you are not a producer, have you considered working directly with a farmer to get your products?
  5. Are you still scared to go to the grocery store?

The following states were represented. Multiple respondents from a state are indicated in parenthesis:

  • Michigan (11)
  • Illinois (5)
  • Texas (5)
  • Iowa (4)
  • Florida (3)
  • Wisconsin (3)
  • Indiana (2)
  • Ohio (2)
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

It is worth noting that multiple responses from a state are spread out across that state.

Question 1 and 2

Just shy of half of the respondents – 22 of 48 – said their grocery stores were out of meat at some point. Most noted that chicken and beef were especially hard to find but in almost every case respondents said they can get meat now. However, consumers from Texas, Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin said lunch meat is still scarce.

Some consumers noted that while meat is available, there are limits on the quantity they can purchase.

Six people added that when meat was available, they could not believe how expensive it was. The respondent from Kansas noted she is paying US$6 to $8 a pound for 80/20 lean ground beef.

An Aldi grocery store worker in Wisconsin replied and said a meat delivery truck has come to the store every day and while varieties have been limited, the store has not been out of meat.

Another respondent who lives in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, said she has not experienced any meat or egg shortages.

Several people said dairy has also been limited.

I never had a hard time finding meat or any other products. I shopped at our local grocer instead of big box stores and in some of the responses where finding meat was never an issue, those consumers did the same.

Question 3

Only seven people said they were ever out of eggs and two of them added that when conventional eggs were out, cage-free and free-range eggs were plentiful – one person noted how expensive the specialty eggs are.

Two people noted they bought laying hens in response to the limits that have been put on buying eggs, while others stated they already had layers.

Only one person mentioned the initial increase in conventional egg prices.

Question 4

Several respondents are producers of meat, like me. They have had more orders or requests from consumers to buy whole animals than ever before. However, in many cases getting an appointment for processing is a challenge. In my area you can't get a processing appointment until February 2021. 

Those who are not producers said they have either investigated it or wished they knew how to reach a producer directly. One individual from Michigan specifically said she would love to buy directly from a farmer so she knew exactly what was in her food. This is proof that transparency is and always will be important. In my opinion, now is our time as producers to capitalize on teaching consumers why we do what we do.

Question 5

Of the 48 responses, no one said they are afraid to go to the grocery store. Some said they never were, while some said they are cautious but not scared. Only one person in all the responses said they initially had anxiety about the situation but that has subsided now – that person lives not far from Detroit, Michigan, which is a hot spot for COVID-19. Nine respondents said they find the restrictions at the store to be annoying and/or awkward.

I find it incredibly interesting that 16 people who live in states with pandemic hot spots and strict restrictions (Michigan and Illinois) are not afraid to go to the store and in some cases haven't had trouble finding products at a time when panic buying has been so popular.

Several mothers noted they do not take their children when they go to the store and that they were partial to car-side pick-up even before the pandemic – I can attest to this. One mother noted her son has asthma, so she has been especially careful.

Final thoughts

In hindsight, I wish I would have asked if any of the respondents bought meat alternatives or specialty eggs during the shortage of traditional products.

I realize my survey size was not large, but I found it interesting to hear about these topics from friends across the country who live in states with various pandemic-related rules.

I also found it interesting that some respondents in Iowa and Arkansas credited having enough products to the fact they lived so close to a commercial operation.

I have never been scared to go to the store, but I do understand being cautious to protect those in my family who may be at high risk.

It will be a long time before going to the grocery store seems normal again, but I think we are headed in the right direction as states begin to open and shortages subside. I mean, even toilet paper was heavily stocked at our local Wal-Mart yesterday.

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