Freezer shortage leaves consumers, meat industry out in the cold

Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) - Are you in the market for a storage freezer? Good luck. There is a freezer shortage and most places are sold out. As our Ike Bendavid learned, the shortage has a larger impact than just food storage at home.

It’s another day on the farm for Steve Schubart. The owner of the Grass Cattle Company in Charlotte says that since the pandemic started, a national meat shortage and increased interest in local products have been good for his business.

"Because of the pandemic there has been a very large spike in demand for regional meat," Schubart said.

But he has lost some sales because of a problem consumers are encountering.

"A lot of my potential customers have been calling me saying they would like to order sides of beef but they can't get access to a chest freezer or stand-up freezer right now," Schubart said.

That challenge is also affecting meat processing facilities.

"The impact is real," said Carl Cushing, who owns the Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing Company in Ferrisburgh. "People are trying to get animals through our facility, get them back for people to purchase."

He says the demand for local meat has increased his production from around 2,000 pounds a day to 7,000 pounds a day. It could be even more, but for the freezer shortage.

"It's kind of bottlenecking on the other end and for us because once we get them processed, we only have so much freezer space," Cushing said.

To find out what's behind the lack of appliances, I stopped at Express Appliances and Kitchens in South Burlington. Owner Jack Rock says he has a waitlist that is several pages long full of people looking for storage freezers.

"They sold out the first weekend and no one has been able to catch up since. We are just waiting for the supply chain to fill all the back orders," Rock said.

Rock says that most of the appliances are made overseas, but as things opened up back here, even the factories in the United States haven't been able to keep up with demand.

"When the factories reopened, everyone had to be socially distanced. So now the factories are working at a 50% capacity," Rock said.

Rock hopes that by October things will be back to normal.

Back at the farm, Schubart says he hopes the demand for his products remains even after the pandemic.

“I hope that all my local customers that buy from me and other local farms realize the local food supply is a reliable one and once they can get those freezers, they should be all set for the rest of their life,” Schubart said.

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