Food supply chain remains strong as consumers prep for COVID-19

Retailers, meat producers and farmers are working hard to ensure that the U.S. food supply chain remains intact, despite supermarket shelves that have been emptied due to COVID-19 stockpiling.

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Burl Jantzen | iStockPhoto.com
Burl Jantzen | iStockPhoto.com

Retailers, meat producers and farmers are working hard to ensure that the U.S. food supply chain remains intact, despite supermarket shelves that have been emptied due to COVID-19 stockpiling.

“There is food being produced. There is food in warehouses,” said Julie Anna Potts, chief executive of the North American Meat Institute, a trade group for beef, pork and turkey packers and producers. “There is plenty of food in the country.”

Measures to meet the increased demand

Consumers flocked to grocery stores over the last week to stock up on nonperishables and other shelf-stable goods in preparation for self-quarantine and/or social distancing measures, driving up sales of fresh turkey and chicken. In response, retailers have asked suppliers to do what they can to meet the increased demand.

Multiple poultry producers, including Sanderson Farms, announced plans this week to ramp up retail processing to meet the needs of supermarkets and other stores with empty shelves. Tyson Foods is making its “most-significant shift” ever to produce the cuts of chicken, beef and pork preferred by supermarket shoppers rather than restaurants. Perdue Farms CEO assured CNBC on Tuesday that he was "confident that over the next two to three weeks, we'll begin to catch up."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has assured meat producers that slaughterhouses will continue to be staffed with federal inspectors in order to avoid any possible supply disruptions, saying that it will use “all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations” during the outbreak.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a temporarily policy that allows suppliers to bypass Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) supplier verification onsite audits if needed as long as other appropriate food safety verification methods are used.

Government officials meet with stakeholders

President Donald Trump and other top officials met with food retailers, wholesalers and suppliers over the weekend in order to offer support and ensure that food and essentials continue to be produced and available to consumers.

“Yesterday I spoke with the great American Grocers and Supply Chain Executives. We are confident that supply will continue to meet demand nationwide. These beacons of our community will remain open for you, no matter what. We are working hard to remove any barriers to that effort!” the president tweeted.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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