RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The situation's not dire yet, but one look at the shelves where Brian Day stores meat for his Clarksville Station restaurant lets you know the industry's facing a real challenge.
Those shelves are nearly empty, and when Day's asked how long it will last her replies, "The weekend! This weekend, but we'll see what comes next week!"
He smiles when he says that but there's reason for concern after a recent conversation with his meat supplier. He relies on specific cuts to prepare customer favorites like prime rib.
"When I called and told him that I needed the loins, he told me 'I really don't have a lot. I can get you one, maybe two.' We're used to getting maybe four, five for the week," Day said.
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The revelation that some Wendy's fast-food restaurants aren't able to serve burgers because of a beef shortage made many consumers aware that the industry's facing a supply problem.
Just last week, the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture said in an interview with ABC11, "It may not be in today, the day you want it. It may not be in the cuts you want. But it will be protein, it will be nutritious and it will be safe."
"There's a lot of meat processing plants closing across the United States, and production has gone from 50 to 34 percent in some areas. Their workers are trying to be spaced out, six feet apart," said Chris Long, owner of the Old Country Club Steak house in Roxboro.
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That causes a ripple effect as the plants identify and isolate workers sickened by COVID-19. Then productions slow to a crawl, delaying deliveries.
"As the beef price increases, my profit margin decreases," Long said. "We're already in a tough time, with doing takeout only, and not able to seat our customers in our restaurant. From the word I'm hearing, I won't be able to buy any beef next week, but I'll still try."
They say some favorites may have to come off the menu if the meat's no longer available. Bottom line, buy the beef that you love while you can or prepare to pay a little more in case the supplies continue to go down.