(NEXSTAR) – Just about every item you’d expect to find on the table for a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is affected by supply chain issues, staff shortages, higher production costs , a shortage – or all of the above.
Let’s start with the side dishes. The problem here is not so much with the ingredients, but rather with the packaging that those ingredients come in. Aluminum cans, glass jars and bottles are all stuck in shipping bottlenecks from China, said Rodney Holcomb, food economist at Oklahoma State University.
“These could be stuck on a ship somewhere off the west coast and not make it to port,” Holcomb said.
There can be a lot of cranberries to make a cranberry sauce – but no easy way to wrap it. Others find it difficult to obtain labels for their products. As food manufacturers get creative in dealing with packaging changes and shortages, these costs can be passed on to consumers.
In addition to the packaging problems, “the drought in California [is] also impacting grapes, nuts, various fruits and vegetables. And Hurricane Ida shut down sugar refineries in the southeast, ”Holcomb said. “Any of them could have an impact. You throw them all together, and they become quite a challenge.
Even your raw vegetables can be more expensive because the cost of fertilizers, much of which is imported from China, has skyrocketed. Not to mention, the increased cost of fertilizers means it’s more expensive to grow corn, which means it’s more expensive to raise chickens, turkeys, and other animals. “It’s a big, expensive circle,” Holcomb said.
When it comes to desserts, the same packaging issues apply for a box of pumpkin or pre-made frozen pie crust. Since these are both stable, just buy them when you see them, Holcomb advised. Even some of the hardiest vegetables, like sweet potatoes, will last long enough if stored properly.
“Start planning ahead and it gives you time to look around. If a store doesn’t have the product you want, it gives you time to look for what you want, ”he said.
Now for the main course of many families: meat. The the cost of all food is on the rise nearly 5% from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but meat prices have particularly risen, said Derrell Pierce, Oklahoma state professor of agricultural economics who specializes in breeding.
Protein markets have been through a lot in the past year, with demand increasing during COVID-19 shutdowns and meat processing plants hit hard by virus outbreaks. Pierce doesn’t expect to see cleaned and empty crates of meat in grocery stores this year, but you might notice a few quirks.
For example, you might have a hard time finding a small turkey. This is because turkeys grow quite quickly, so if there are slowdowns in a processing plant (due to a COVID-19 outbreak or a broken piece of equipment that requires a part to be shipped from abroad), these turkeys keep getting bigger.
“Anytime a turkey hits that 10 to 13 lb window, if they can’t get it slaughtered in time… you now have an 18 to 20 lb turkey,” Pierce said.
His advice for dealing with the uncertainty this year is to stay flexible.
“You might not get exactly the product that you always got,” Pierce said. “There will be a turkey of a certain size. There will be hams. It might not be the boneless spiral cut you normally get, but there will be another form of ham.
“If there was a time when you said, ‘maybe I should mix things up and drop one of the traditional items and try something new’, this would be the year to consider it. Holcomb said.
“Find that thing (that’s grown) locally that can become your new food tradition, instead of getting that thing that you always buy – but everyone in the country always buys too – so that will be hard to find. “
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