This month’s cold storage report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture measuring stock in refrigerated warehouses on May 31 shows chicken stock down 15 percent from last year despite a 1 percent increase from the previous month.
Meanwhile frozen fruit stocks had declined 1 percent from the previous month and were down 23 percent from one year ago.
According to a report by the American Farm Bureau Federation, levels of poultry and red meat have been down since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when packing plants suffered severe disruptions. These problems caused production declines and panic purchases by consumers.
Stocks of meat would typically begin to replenish this time of year, the Farm Bureau said, but that has not happened.
Beef is down 1 percent year-over-year, but pork experienced a steep drop in May 2020 and levels have not recovered. Most of the meat supply shortage is attributable to chicken, however, with wings, breast meat, thigh meat and a category called “other” seeing the biggest drops.
While vegetables have remained fairly stable, there has been a 23 percent drop in fruit stocks. Blueberries lead the way with a 39 percent decline from last year, but the Farm Bureau attributes this to a 2020 increase in frozen blueberry stock (the 2021 supply is at normal levels). Strawberries are down 16 percent from May 2020. And tart cherries, which experienced a shortage in 2020 because of late frost, are down again in 2021 because of a second straight year of late frosts.
The Farm Bureau says tart cherry stocks could remain low into 2022. The price for these cherries has increased more than 150 percent, jumping from 15 to 38 cents per pound.
Photo credit: Brian Child