U.S. food supply is under pressure, from plants to store shelves

In Arizona, one in 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major produce company were recently out sick. In Massachusetts, employee illnesses have slowed the flow of fish to supermarkets and restaurants. A grocery chain in the U.S. Southeast had to hire temporary workers after roughly one-third of employees at its distribution centers fell ill.

Food-industry executives and analysts warn that the situation could persist for weeks or months, even as the current wave of Covid-19 infections eases. Recent virus-related absences among workers have added to continuing supply and transportation disruptions, keeping some foods scarce…

Similar challenges at packaged-food and meatpacking plants mean that shortages could linger, industry officials and analysts said. The Agriculture Department showed cattle slaughter and beef production over the week of Jan. 14 were down about 5% from a year earlier, with hog slaughtering down 9%. Chicken processing was about 4% lower over the week ending Jan. 8, the USDA said. Labor shortages are also affecting milk processing and cheese production, according to the agency.