How COVID-19 Has Transformed the Grocery Shopping Experience for the Foreseeable Future
On Well + Good
Emily Laurence・June 30, 2020
“…COVID-19 has also led to food shortages across the country. The shortage that has been in the news the most is meat, which happened largely due to shut-downs of major meatpacking plants. “This happened because there were some [COVID-19] outbreaks at several of the meat processing facilities that forced them to shut down for the safety of their workers,” says Ben Ruddell, PhD, an environmental consultant and an associate professor at Northern Arizona University.
“Given that many migrant picking and packing operations involve people in close quarters, living in crowded conditions, and traveling by bus all together, we’re actually lucky there haven’t been more outbreaks and shortages haven’t been worse,” Dr. Ruddell says. “I would expect that at some point during the pandemic, [more outbreaks at food processing facilities] will happen, which could potentially cause some other types of food shortages.” COVID-19 has so far disrupted the food system in other ways, including causing a surplus of milk due to a decrease in sales and school cafeteria closures, and restrictions on exporting, which have had a negative financial effect on many agricultural farmers.
“…Despite this, Dr. Ruddell says that after the pandemic, he expects the food system to return as it was pretty quickly and does not foresee any long-term food sourcing problems—at least in the U.S. (Global food shortage is another issue entirely.) So if you’re not finding meat or other items at your local grocery store currently, it’s an obstacle that hopefully won’t last forever.
Because of the meat shortage, there has been an increase in sales for meat substitute products and this is a change Dr. Ruddell expects to continue, even after the meat supply issue is resolved. “The outbreaks at the meat facility plants is yet another reason for us to consume less meat,” he says. “It’s a healthy dose of perspective.”