This week, many Americans are realizing for the first time that finding chicken is not as simple as it used to be. Many restaurants have been forced to take chicken items off their menu and grocery stores are often sold out.
According to the press, the following things have been blamed on the chicken shortage: Demand for comfort food, the pandemic, “sandwich wars,” and winter storms.
Notice that when these excuses are repeated in every major news article, the journalists rarely backup up these supply/demand claims with data. When they do, the numbers don’t add up. For instance, journalists will say the demand for chicken is “high” but not provide the numbers to show the demand is up like in this CBS article. Or they will fail to provide data that demand is up and provide evidence of a supply shortage citing data that doesn’t fully account for the deficit we are experiencing, like in this USA Today article, which says chicken production was down 4% for the first quarter of 2021 but back up 7% as of mid April. Remember, this is an industry that has so much leftover chicken they routinely throw away millions of day-old chicks, even though the practice was supposed to be banned in the U.S. in 2020.
The excuses blamed for the chicken shortage have some truth to them, for instance some farms were indeed impacted by cold weather. But these excuses for the chicken shortage are more palatable to the average customer than the truth which could have long-term consequences on demand and profit.
The real reason
The actual No. 1 factor for the chicken shortage is that the poultry industry is highly dependent on chemical chlorine products and there is a much more serious chlorine shortage in the U.S., as reported here, here, and here.
The chlorine shortage is so bad that one pool chemical company its supplier last week, “If I purchased $10,000 worth of chlorine, could I get the price we were paying just two weeks ago.” They were told, “not only can we not give you a discount, we are limiting how much you can buy at a time.”
Chicken manufacturers are likely being told the same thing, except they $10,000 worth of chlorine to them is a drop in the bucket.
Those who profit from chicken (shall we call them the chicken industrial complex?) would much rather have headlines about cute things like “sandwich wars” causing the shortage than headlines like “chicken shortage linked to chlorine shortage.”
If people knew the chlorine-chicken connection then they’d naturally start asking questions like, “why do they use chlorine in chicken?” Or “why isn’t chlorine listed as an ingredient on food labels if its in the product?” Consumers with chlorine sensitivities could start linking their unexplained symptoms to their diet and stop purchasing chicken products bathed in chlorine. Consumers might also start wondering why the practice of bathing bloody chickens in chlorine is banned throughout Europe.
If the pandemic and increase demand for comfort food were the reason for the chicken shortage, then this would be a world-wide problem because the pandemic is not unique to the U.S. But what is unique to the U.S. is its process of chlorinating its poultry, as explained here.