Pet Food

Pet food shortages, too? | Life

If anyone here locally has faced a pet food shortage at the store of your choice, I’d like to hear about it.

The reason is, I am seeing a lot of concern about such in newspapers and television news, particularly coming out of the Midwest. What I am not seeing is industry validation of that. Please email me and let me know the food brand, the store of your choice, and how long you had to do without.

So far, I have not seen any pet food shortages here locally, but to be fair, I haven’t been looking specifically. I will now. An empty store shelf does not equate to a true shortage, however. People may just read stuff like this column and suddenly go out and buy more than they need fearing a shortage in the future. Thus, empty shelf.

Head, then, to the store. If one goes in and encounters an empty pet food aisle, now it has to be true, right? Umm, no, not really. This summer I went to a local store to buy some ice cream. The whole section that houses a favorite brand was empty. Let’s see, that was 15 feet times five shelves high and equals just 75 feet of ice cream just gone.

Instead of running out of the store like my head was on fire and my rear end was catching while trying to text everyone I know with this breaking news, I felt the glass door of the freezer. It was warm. More likely a freezer section was down. Sure enough, the beleaguered employee who had to restock it all a couple of days later confirmed my suspicions.

If there is a true pet food shortage, I find it a bit hard to fathom. Now your particular brand may be out of stock temporarily, but I doubt the whole industry has collapsed. The human food industry has not fallen off according to the USDA who this week stated, “There are currently no nationwide shortages of food.”

There are increased demands for human food. The demand is up about 13 percent overall from last year at this time.

Sources cited in the lay media say that this increased demand plus supply chain interruptions have affected the human and pet food industry. They say there are delays with imported ingredients and poorer crops because of climate change issues.

They point to slowdowns at slaughter plants because of COVID-19 restrictions, and limited workers and structural changes made in plants thus eating up floor space. Taken together, this means slower food production.

Slaughter plants are a vital part of the pet food formulation chain in most cases. The byproducts, known as offal, are often key components of many rations and by reason a great way to get rid of offal, too. Total produced from beef and poultry slaughter alone is nearly 2 million tons worth more than $3.21 billion.

Reuters reports that both cat and dog food prices have risen by 20 percent since the pandemic began. They also point to higher labor and transportation costs. Then they point to higher prices for corn, soybeans and meats in general. And the cherry on the top of this sundae are those people who ran out and got pandemic pets either through purchase or rehoming.

The American Feed Industry Association, the Pet Food Institute, and their UK counterpart, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, have no shortage advisories posted. The U.S. share of the market is a $30.3 billion annual industry with the 8.6 million tons of food our pets eat.

Likely, any shortages will be short-lived.

Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email [email protected]