National supply problems take a bite out of some local meat cases

WEST LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) As possible disruptions to the country's meat supply play out on the national stage, we wanted to know how that could potentially affect stores here locally and whether shoppers are concerned.

"You know the sales stuff is gone, but the other stuff, the other meats are fine," said Elizabeth Wadsworth of Hartland.

Meat sections that are mostly full but there are definitely some bare spots.

"It looked OK, to what it had been," said Gretchen Cole of Lebanon. "What I wanted wasn't available... I wanted chicken breasts."

"We are keeping a close eye on the supply chains and access to foods," said Erin Sigrist, the president of the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association.

Sigrist says that currently in Vermont, meat supplies are down roughly 20%.

Nationally, there are problems with distribution and supply chains. The coronavirus forced some of the country's largest meat plants to shut down. President Trump is using the Defense Act to keep them operating.

"There might not be the variety of cuts or the variety of proteins that we are used to," Sigrist said.

But some stores are less affected by the national issue than others.

"It's sort of been business as usual," said Allan Reetz of the Hanover Co-op Food Stores.

The meat sections at the Hanover Co-Op Food stores, which are in New Hampshire and Vermont, are packed. Employees say that's because a lot of their products are sourced locally, though they often cost a little bit more.

"When this cooperative was founded in 1936 it actually stated right in their founding document, we will be local as much as possible," Reetz said.

Experts say meat will continue to be available at the larger retailers, as well, and prices have not been increasing with the smaller supply. But officials urge shoppers not to hoard products. Some are simply adjusting their buying habits.

"I've been trying to figure out how to use meat more sparingly," Wadsworth said.

"I have to go to different stores if I need it," Cole said.

The bottom line-- industry experts say there will be enough food for everyone, as long as shoppers only buy what they need.