News is breaking about possible Covid-19 food shortages. Certain meat producers have begun shuttering plants because workers have contracted the Coronavirus. See, e.g., this report from CBS’s Philadelphia affiliate station and this Time article. The shutdowns in some cases are indefinite (as in “not defined”) or are an unrealistically short two weeks. What does this mean for all of us? Will there be Covid-19 food shortages?
According to the articles:
- Tyson suspended operations at its Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant this week. Over two dozen workers there contracted Covid-19;
- Major meat processor JBS USA has temporarily shut down its Souderton, PA beef plant. JBS plans to reopen April 16 after its two-week closure. However, because all experts agree that neither Pennsylvania nor the country has reached peak infections yet, to me the April 16th date is wildly optimistic.
- Cargill has also “paused operations” at a Hazleton, PA plant.
- One source (from the CBS Local article) opined that the closures represent “a very small fraction” of the overall production and there is no expectations of “real shortages for the consumer.” I think that the use of the word “real” is intentional. Recent shortages have been, as far as I have seen, entirely the result of irrational hoarding.
- Smithfield Foods has also temporarily closed a Sioux Falls, SD plant because of Covid-19 infections and to reduce the risk to other workers. Smithfield had originally shut down for three days and then extended the furlough to two weeks. As if the virus will be completely eradicated in fourteen days. I fully expect that shutdown to be extended.
Implications & Extrapolations - Covid-19 Food Shortages
It seems like every “shutdown” involved with this pandemic has been for “two weeks.” I think that the authorities initially tell people “two weeks” because people (the sheeple) will accept that. As I write this, it is April 13 and my state is shut down until the end of the month. If the Governor would have initially mandated a two-month shutdown, the response likely would have been different. It stands to reason that, like every other “two-week pause” in this outbreak, it will be extended. It further stands that as more people get sick (remember that we’re only partially through “the curve” and haven’t yet hit “peak”), people will get sick at other food-processing plants.
We have to be prepared for the shutdowns to not only continue, but also to spread, and for the potential of shortages. That will be tempered, however, with the fact that many stores have instituted purchase limits because of the irrational hoarding we saw at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.
Rationing will not Solve Covid-19 Food Shortages
I believe that the rationing does as much harm as good, though, because it not only forces people to go to the grocery stores multiple times and thereby increasing their chances of infection, but also it creates the impression of shortage. Toilet paper is the perfect example: There is no rational reason that toilet paper should still be scarce. But people see it, and see the ration of a single unit, and they reason that they better buy it while it’s there, even if they don’t need it. The rationing, in large part, creates the shortage.
Tips To Help You Through This
Even though we’re in “a situation” you can take steps to make it easier. Although my first bit of advice would be to store up at least a year’s worth of food — a year ago — but it’s too late for that. Just use that as a “lesson learned” for next time.
- Above all, be safe. Follow our tips for grocery shopping safety.
- Plan ahead. Planning is key. Make a list of exactly what you need, with backup items for every item.
- I am definitely not advocating hoarding, but if you have less than a solid 18–24 month food supply, then you should continue to buy a little extra of your staple items to add to your preps. The idea here is to reduce the stress on your stored preps.
- As of 4/13/20, we really don’t know how long this will last. We haven’t reached the peak, governments are already canceling July 4th activities, and some experts are predicting a second wave of viral infections later in the year.
- Do as much shopping online as possible. It goes without saying. Whether it’s grocery deliveries by Peapod or deliveries of goods from other online vendors, they all save you a trip into the stores. And if you are a frequent Amazon shopper, as I am, you should seriously consider Amazon Prime.
Planning for the Next Wave or the Next Pandemic
Whether it is for a second wave of Covid-19, planning for secondary effects of this pandemic, or simply for the next pandemic, it is not too early for planning. First, keep a journal (or maybe just a sheet of paper on the fridge) with shortcomings. One of mine is not storing enough milk and milk alternatives. Each of the items on your list is a lesson. Observe the deficiency in your prepping. What could be done better? Think about what and how. Then as soon as things calm down a little bit, fix those inadequacies.
Many people realized that growing a little bit of food is a good thing. People who actually grow their own food have all of their seeds and supplies by January or February. For many crops, April is too late to start germinating. Seeds and gardening supplies are hard to get now because the “authorities” don’t consider producing your own food to be “essential.”
Constantly evaluate your preparedness. How well were you prepared? What can you do better? Then … just do it.
- Do you have a year’s supply of food inside your house? A solid year of shelf-stable foods? If not, you should work to beef up your pantry.
- It might not be a bad idea to back up your delicious canned and boxed food stores with good old rice and beans. I’ve seen bags of rice coming back onto the store shelves, so that’s an option now. In March it wasn’t.
- If you take prescription medications, instead of going to the drug store every month, see if you can get your prescriptions mailed to you automatically. Some larger pharmacies do it for free.
- Is your water supply good enough? Bottled water is starting to come back onto the shelves. You may want to pick up some. At least evaluate your water situation.
- Once the current pandemic is over, definitely stock up on masks and face coverings, as well as hygiene and cleaning supplies.
- Do you have a year’s supply of toiletries?
Be Ahead of the Curve
You’ve got to think ahead of the herd. Don’t let the first time you think about buying a particular item be when you see pictures of everyone else loading up their carts with that item. Buy when the supply is plenty, not when the shelves are bare and you have to fight other people for it. Think ahead and not only will you survive, you will thrive.