NEWINGTON – Stew Leonard Jr. sought to alleviate concerns about a national meat shortage during a press conference at the grocery’s Berlin Turnpike store last week.
The impact of the shortage should only be temporary, Stew Leonard’s CEO told reporters gathered in front of the entrance.
“Our meat buyer who has been with us over 40 years now has been talking to ranchers, farmers and packing houses and the meat industry has definitely exploded lately,” Leonard said. “Packing plants are down to 70 percent capacity right now but I think that in four to five weeks we’ll be back to 100 percent. It’s a temporary shortage.”
Several giant meat packing plants shut down in the U.S. just recently due to an uptick in cases among workers. That coupled with ongoing safety measures limiting plant capacity has left people concerned about beef, pork products and chicken getting to their dinner tables.
“It has put shockwaves through the industry,” Leonard pointed out. “People rush out and panic-buy when something like that happens.”
His company’s seven stores in Connecticut and New York have been pretty well-stocked due to the fact they work with smaller producers and family farms. Stew Leonard’s surpassed its 2019 Memorial Day meat sales just last week alone.
Fish is also plentiful, according to Leonard, while items like hand sanitizer and gloves are less likely to be on the shelves.
“Expect a great lobster season this year,” he added.
Customers will notice slightly higher prices on meat products until things settle down.
Milk is perhaps a deeper concern for Stew Leonard’s, which was first founded as a dairy.
“Nobody told the cows that schools would be shut down due to the coronavirus … so they’re still producing,” Leonard said. “It breaks my heart, but what do you do with all that extra milk? Unfortunately they’ve had to dump some of it.”
As states across the U.S. slowly reopen businesses and restaurants, the company is continuing to follow recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re trying to make it as safe as we can for customers and to alleviate their fears,” Leoanrd said. “I feel that we can reopen America safety if we follow best practices.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.