Who can forget the grocery store experience soon after the pandemic began? Store shelves seemingly went empty overnight. Many food products became impossible to find including canned soups and vegetables, cereal, fruit and especially meat. The processing plants that grocery meat counters depended on were suddenly shut down or drastically slowed production because of employees falling ill with COVID-19.
Moody’s Analytics warns more global disruptions are on the horizon due to port congestion and a nationwide shortage of truck drivers. The experts claim that there is no quick or clear solution, either. In fact, some suggest this is the new norm.
But the problem is not the supply of food. The problem is the supply chain for food. The most recent data from the USDA shows farmers produced 55 million pounds of red meat and 43 million pounds of chicken – enough supply for 185 pounds of consumable meat for every man, woman and child in America. Still, 85% of the beef in this country is processed by just four companies. Four!  Any issues in that supply chain—even if the supply itself is not interrupted—will certainly be seen on grocery shelves.
That’s why a strong local supply chain like Market Wagon is important. Market Wagon is a platform that functions as an online farmers market, allowing farmers and food producers to thrive in their local community by bringing their meat, vegetables, dairy and other foods directly to the doors of customers without the long and costly methods behind grocery stores today. At the beginning of the pandemic, Market Wagon was in six cities in the Midwest. But we quickly realized the need was so great and urgent that we expanded to more than 30 additional cities during the 18 months that followed. Not only farmers, but caterers and restaurants also credit Market Wagon with saving their family business when the conventional supply chains dried up overnight.
There’s plenty of food out there, not only meat but fruits, vegetables and dairy as well. Consumers just need more reliable ways of getting it from the farmers and food producers directly. When restaurants and farmers markets shut down because of the pandemic, many small family farms had no place to send their crops. They rotted in the fields or were just dumped.
So, yes, keep an eye on the global supply chain. We all need toilet paper after all. But when it comes to food, you don’t have to depend on crowded ports or adequate numbers of semi drivers. There is a farmer, likely just a few minutes down the road, with plenty of meat and produce. Trust me, you’ll probably taste the difference too.
Nick Carter is Co-Founder and CEO of Market Wagon, an online marketplace that connects food consumers directly with local farmers and artisans.