Fears for meat and egg shortages after stores report ‘bare shelves’

There are fears for meat and egg shortages after stores have reported “bare shelves” amid a surge in the number of Omicron cases.

Food chains have been severely disrupted by the new variant, as workers fall ill and productivity drops, with supermarkets bearing the brunt as a result.

In the US in particular, the effects of Omicron have caused a shortfall of labour, including farms, manufacturers and distributors, The Los Angeles Times reports.

As the US continued to see an increase in Covid cases, President Biden announced the addition of 10,000 Covid testing sites on top of the 80,000 already up and running, with the new sites being established in regions hardest hit by the latest wave.

The president also announced that his administration will purchase half a billion home rapid Covid tests.

However, those plans have done little to quell immediate fears among meat production companies who have reported signs of declining productivity.

According to figures from the US Department of Agriculture, meat companies have seen the number of hogs and cattle slaughter decline by as much as 6% in the past week.

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Meanwhile, SpartanNash Co., a grocery distributor and store operator, claim they have seen a tripling of cases among their staff, leading to delays and workers who feel stretched thin.

And with reports of “bare shelves,” Bindiya Vakil, chief executive of supply-chain consultant Resilinc Corp, warns that “Labour shortages due to Omicron are only going to exacerbate the issue.”

Plants are also finding it difficult to obtain food inspectors to come and oversee the processing of animals, which is a legal requirement.

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Paula Soldner, chair of the National Joint Council of Food Inspections Locals said: "The Delta variant didn’t have a whole lot of impact on the workforce, but Omicron is nailing us.”

Meanwhile, farms are also facing the repercussions of Omicron, with one of the biggest US producers of free-range eggs reporting staffing issues.

Campbell Soup and Egg Innovations say they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep workers onboard as they can’t mandate vaccinations “without taking a hit.”

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