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The national meat shortage won't happen in Maine, but smarter shopping is needed

"Panic buying" is causing meat shops to limit orders and cut store hours. Industry leaders want to urge the public to limit meat purchases to what you need

MAINE, USA — “Remember the toilet paper shortage of 2020?"

As Mainers remain hunkered down in their homes the idea of "panic buying" became very real. Grocery stores and supermarkets were forced to limit customers to buying certain toilet paper, paper towels, and disinfectant products.

Some markets have also limited the number of meat products one can buy at a given time. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting nearly everything in our daily life including the meat industry.

Sean Smith is the Director of Sales at W.A. Bean & Sons in Bangor. He compared the last few weeks of sales to the panic buying of toilet paper.

“We’re very busy, we’re trying to keep up with things, we’re trying to keep up with public demand," Smith said.

Smith added people are placing orders of excessive amounts. 

“You don’t need to be buying a full case of chicken right now," Smith said. "It’s the responsibility of the retailers, we can’t oversell.”

Credit: NCM
In an effort to keep the Maine farm brand an honest one, Governor Mills signed LD 351, an act that requires Maine-trademarked meat and poultry to be born and raised in the state.

The idea of overselling customers is why meat companies and butcher shops have limited hours, stopped online orders, or limited purchases for customers.

Steve Burger operates Winter Hill Farm in Freeport. To compare the issue of overbuying, he reminded Mainers that farmers don't have an unlimited supply of meat.

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“The challenge is we only have so many animals ready for harvest," Burger said.

Burger added that the national meat shortage won't affect Maine's meat supply. 

“We’ve been able to process out product and move it like normal, the only thing that’s changed is it seems more people want it than usual," Burger added,

Burger said his farm has seen new customers during the pandemic and he hopes those customers continue to shop locally.

Credit: NCM
In an effort to keep the Maine farm brand an honest one, Governor Mills signed LD 351, an act that requires state-trademarked meat and poultry to be born and raised in Maine.

“Our local customers know they have a great local resource," he added.

Nancy McBrady is Bureau Director, Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. 

She said there will be no meat shortages but some temporary changes may happen at local supermarkets.

“It is not our understanding that there is going to be any outright meat shortages in the state," McBrady said. "There will be disruptions so folks might not get as much as they want or precisely what they want to get. But they will be seeing pork and beef and chicken on the shelves."

McBrady added to keep your neighbors and families in mind when shopping. Buying in bulk and in excessive amounts will only further the issue.

To help support the local meat industry McBrady suggested shopping at local farms, farmers' markets, and meat shops. Here are some ways to find those places:

Available Local Food and Alternative Pick-Up Options Updated: 5/5/2020 Many farmers, fishermen, and other producers across Maine have added alternative ways for customers to obtain food and other products to accommodate for physical distancing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many thanks to Allison Lakin of East Forty Farm and Lakin's Gorges Cheese for initiating ...
Eastport Farmers' Market is located at 7 Washington Street in the gravel parking lot next to the Post Office. The Market is held Saturdays from 10:00am to 12:00pm from mid-June to mid-October. Offerings include a variety of fresh, local produce, herbs, farm fresh eggs, seasonal fruits & berries, homemade breads and assorted baked goods, herb/spice [...]

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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