As we all get ready for the big Memorial Day weekend, we realize it may be significantly different in these days of quarantine, social distancing, and wearing masks. One thing you can count on is that the weekend will remain the start of the summer foods season. Meals may be without guests, perhaps, but they will still include those distinctly summer specialties that you can still throw on the grill.
At this time of food shortages, even if they are exaggerated or only perceived food shortages, we might wonder if COVID-19’s influence on our food supply chain is carried over to the food supply chain of our pets.
First, pet food manufacturers are essential operations, so do not worry that their facilities have been closed down. In fact, many have been ramping up production in response to an increased demand during the pandemic. With so many people working from home and self isolating, there has been a major increase in the adoptions of companion animals. They can often provide the emotional support that is often missing during life in solitary confinement.
Animal shelters around the country are filling the need and emptying their kennels as their rescue pets are adopted out. The ASPCAs in both New York and Los Angeles saw a 70% increase in fostered animals since March of this year. Though the pet industry is not unaffected, the growth in pet food sales is helping to keep the industry solvent.
Just as with consumer goods, pet owners have been stocking up on pet foods. This alone has created a short-term boom in sales. The majority of consumers say they have on hand enough pet food to last 3-4 weeks. In the areas most affected by COVID-19 such as New York City, the March spike in pet food sales was 260%. This demand will likely remain strong. In addition to in-store sales, online retailers are receiving a huge uptick in orders as shoppers use ecommerce platforms to both order and receive their pet food in the comfort and safety of their homes.
Production to meet this demand has been expanded by pet food manufacturers across-the-board. Employment opportunities have increased as extra shifts and additional facilities have been added. All of this is extremely good for a struggling economy as companies strive to meet this increased need.
But is it safe?
Though pet food manufacturers overall have been keenly aware of sanitation guidelines, they are now working harder than ever to increase their safety precautions. They are minimizing contact by enforcing social distancing for employees at the plant. Personnel who are able to work from home have been doing so. In-plant operations have increased hygiene requirements and are limiting contact between employees and their shipping contacts involved in the delivery function. They are following the FDA’s latest good manufacturing practices. They are using cleaning products registered with the EPA to safeguard the plant and its employees against the coronavirus.
Finally, many of the manufacturers are giving back. With pet food donations and financial gifts, multiple pet food companies are assisting animal rescue organizations as well as food pantries and other nonprofit organizations. Their local communities can greatly benefit from their help during this crisis.
So, while you are enjoying the approach of summer with the Memorial Day holiday, you can be thankful that our pet food products are considered essential within the supply chain. While Kitty is enjoying a snooze at the top of her Armarkat cat tree, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that her food is abundant, and that this will not change in these days of the “new normal.”