Chicken Shortage Looms: Have we Reached Peak Chicken?

Americans are gobbling so many chicken sandwiches, its leading to a chicken shortage. Seriously.

I can understand why the complex supply chain that stretches from factories overseas to ports in the U.S. before finally reaching our local store shelves might fail. Multiple parts have to be sourced from multiple suppliers, each of whom in turn get their raw materials from different parts of the world. All the parts then have arrive at the same factory at the same time to be assembled into a finished product. Any failure in one step holds up the others. This is why a chip shortage is halting vehicle production in Detroit and other cities. It’s why we may see shortages and long lead times on everything from major appliance to popular toys for Christmas.

I would not call myself sympathetic to their plight, but I can understand both how and why it might happen when the supply chain has so many links.

A shortage of chicken, on the other hand, I don’t get.

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A Sam’s Club Report as Panic Buying Begins Again

With five more days until Election Day and a potential coronavirus-inspired lockdown in the future, we visit Sam’s Club to see what is in stock.

According to the article “A Lot Of Hoarding” – Americans Race To Supermarkets As Second Wave Arrives that ran on Wednesday on ZeroHedge, the sale of baking goods in the first three weeks of October “spiked 3,400% from  a year earlier” which is better than the 6,000 percent we saw this spring.  Of course, that differential may just mean that the stocking up is just starting and those numbers will increase. 

And by the way, “Hoarding” is not the correct term for people who stock up for personal use.  Hoarding means buying items that are in short supply and holding them hopes or reselling them to make a profit once scarcity sets in. Hoarders hoard for profit.  Preppers prep for safety and security.

As I wrote earlier this week, there are signs that empty shelves are once again lie in our future.  So we made an excursion to our local grocery and to Sam’s Club to see how things were doing in our neck of the woods.

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How to Fight Shortages, Scarcities, and Empty Shelves

It may feel like the shortages caused by COVID-19 are behind us, but some products are still scarce and more shortages could lie ahead of us.

Until this spring, very few Americans can remember living through a period when there were empty shelves at the super market.  Sure, maybe milk and bread sold out before a snow storm, or bottled water and batteries before a hurricane, but we always knew there would be more in a few days. 

Thanks to the coronavirus and the subsequent shutdown of half of American’s economy, the shortage of paper products, cleansers and sanitizers, baking ingredients like flour and yeast, canned soups, fresh meat, guns and ammo, canning jars and lids, and sewing supplies was real and lasted for months.  Many shortages started in March and persisted into the summer while others continue today.  Shipping times from Amazon dropped from one or two days to weeks.

Shortages suck, not only because we can’t get things we need, but because the scarcity drives up prices.  Just look at the ammunition market today where ammo that used to be $13.95 a box is now $49.95, if you can find the caliber you need. Food inflation has also hit, driving up the amount you spend at the grocery store.

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August 14 Diary: The Shelves are Full Again

The canned soup aisle at our Walmart has been restocked. Other products are also back in stock, including toilet paper.

I was in Walmart earlier this week and I am happy to report that the vast majority of items that were out of stock are now available again. This includes:

  • Canned soup and most other foods
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cleansers

There were still some empty spaces in some departments, but for the most part, the entire shelf was not empty.  Also, many of the national brands were back in stock.  I found it surprising that there were still some noticeable outages in sewing notions.  Perhaps these come from China and have been delayed, or maybe they are just in high demand as people are doing more home sewing.

If you got caught short before, this is your chance. Stock up on canned goods, dried beans, crackers, chili, flour, yeast, and all those other staples that sold out in the blink of an eye.

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Coronavirus Report July 13: Recap and Round-Up

The reign of the coronavirus is far from over as surging cases continue to threaten our food supply, the economy, and our lives.

I am back at my desk after a weekend of travel.  While I was enjoying the quiet mountain air, the sound of rain on the roof, and the gurgle of rushing mountain creaks, Florida turned in its worst day of COVID-19 cases ever, as did Los Angeles County.

Florida reported 15,299 new cases Sunday, a new record not only for Florida but for any state.  They reportedly had 19.6 percent of test results coming back positive.  These are both huge numbers.  The 19.6 percent practically guarantees that there are far more cases that are going unreported. 

Los Angeles reported 3,322 new cases, its highest number yet, with a positive test rate of 9 percent.  The county has running total of 133,549 coronavirus cases and a total of 3089 deaths.  That means that the county of Los Angeles, with a population of just over 10 million, has more cases than the entire country of Canada.

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Coronavirus Hits Farm Workers

Berries are just some of the fruits and vegetables that may be in short supply this year as more farm workers are diagnosed with COVID-19.

First it was meatpacking plants; now it is seasonal farm workers who harvest much of the fruits and vegetables in America.  It looks like the coronavirus is going to cause more harm to America’s farmers and the delicate supply chain that puts food on our tables.

Here’s what a Bloomberg article reported on May 30:

One farm in Tennessee distributed Covid-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.

In New Jersey, more than 50 workers had the virus at a farm in Gloucester County, adding to nearly 60 who fell ill in neighboring Salem County. Washington state’s Yakima County, an agricultural area that produces apples, cherries, pears and most of the nation’s hops, has the highest per capita infection rate of any county on the West Coast.

The outbreaks underscore the latest pandemic threat to food supply: Farm workers are getting sick and spreading the illness just as the U.S. heads into the peak of the summer produce season. In all likelihood, the cases will keep climbing as more than half a million seasonal employees crowd onto buses to move among farms across the country and get housed together in cramped bunkhouse-style dormitories.

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Quarantine Day 76 – Still Shortages

While Walmart was clean and well managed, there were a surprising number of empty shelves 10 or 11 weeks after the first panic buying.

I went to Walmart today for the first time in three months and I was shocked that there are still shortages and empty shelves.  I can’t believe that there is still a shortage of toilet paper, but there certainly was in this store.  I’m going to give details and photos below detailing the shortages, some of which are surprising.

First, however, props to this specific Walmart for tightening things up; she store was the cleanest I’ve ever seen it – I’m talking floors, shelves, racks, produce area, etc.  A young woman cleaned the handle of my cart and rolled it to me when I came in.  Every employee I saw was wearing their mask, and all but one were wearing them correctly.  I would say more than three quarters of the shoppers were wearing masks while a minority were not.

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Quarantine Day 20: Curb-Side Grocery Pick-up

We did curbside pick-up for our groceries today, and despite the three day wait, it was worth well worth it. We received more than $100 worth of groceries without entering the store or touching a cart. We only saw one person, our shopper, and she kept her distance while being very friendly and personable.

Curb-Side grocery pick-up today was a much more positive experience than we had on our prior online grocery order.  I attribute the better outcome to changing stores.  Our prior experience was with a grocery store chain that used InstaCart.  This time we went with a chain owned by The Kroger Company.  I don’t know if they have their own in-house service or use a third party, but it was superior service and items on the web site more accurately matched in-store availability.

As we reported back on Day 6 of quarantine, the last time we shopped online, we ordered 36 items and received only half of them.  This time, we ordered 45 items and received 44.  Considering what we had heard from friends and seen in the news, we were gratified to get all but one item we ordered.  My wife made up the list, and she ordered lots of fresh vegetables and nothing that came in a can.  None of the recent panic items – like toilet paper and hand sanitizer – were on our list, so that might explain why we got such a high availability rate. 

The shopper did make substitutions, which we had said in our profile was fine.  Six or seven times the brand we ordered was out of stock so she substituted a similar product.  For example, they were sold out of the store brand of sour cream, so they gave us Breakstone’s.  They were sold out of some wide egg noodles we ordered, so they sent regular egg noodles.  My only disappointment was that I had ordered three of the 18-egg cartons and they were sold out, so they substituted the 12-egg carton.  That means we got 36 eggs instead of 54.  I would have been happier if they had given us 48 — four dozen. 

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By Day 18 of Quarantine, Getting Mail is Exciting

What does it say about our time in quarantine that getting mail is now the highlight of our day?

After letting it sit quietly for two days to kill off any potential coronaviruses that clung to our mail, we finally opened the bag of mail we picked up this weekend. I was pleased to get a catalog from Murray McMurray hatcheries, which we consider to be a premier source of chicks and other poultry.  Looking at their catalog is like looking at a seed catalog: you can check out all the varieties and plan your future.

I’m thinking of buying a dozen or so layers and seeing how they do as a test.  Then later, we can purchase some larger meat birds and raise them up for eight weeks and fill the freezer.  It’s definitely a plan, I’m just not sure it’s one we’ll execute this year.  We’ve got quite a few balls in the air and I’m not sure if we want to add another one to the mix, but my wife is in favor of chickens, so that means its probably going to happen.

I also received my favorite firearms magazine and the latest edition of Backwoods Home Magazine, which I have been reading since the year 2000. If you have any desire to homestead or be more self sufficient, Backwoods Home is chock full of useful information and a must read.   They also have a good web site and sell a variety of useful books.

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Day 17 – Adventures in Online Grocery Shopping

It’s been 11 days since we last got groceries and we’re completely out of fresh vegetables, so I went back to the online store where we had previously purchased groceries and tied to log in.  No luck.  Apparently their systems were so swamped that I could not shop there. This lead to what I am calling our adventures in grocery shopping.

We tried another store that had no delivery dates in the next 48 hours, which is frustrating because I had painstakingly added everything to the cart only to find out that there were no open time slots during which we could pick up or schedule delivery of our groceries.

I had to try two more stores before I could find one that would schedule me pick up groceries on April 1st. It’s further away, but I can live with that.

I’ll report back on how our adventures in grocery shopping end up, after we take delivery and find out how many of the 45 items we ordered are actually delivered.

The next time we need fresh vegetables, I’m think I’m going to head to a local farm stand.  Even if they don’t have celery.

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