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Flexibility On The Menu As Meat Shortages Hit Jacksonville Restaurants, Shops

Shelves that usually hold an abundance of chicken and beef lay empty at a Target in Abington, Pa., Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Shelves that usually hold an abundance of chicken and beef lay empty at a Target in Abington, Pa., Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is sparking growing concerns about the nation’s food supply chain for meat and other items.

Some consumers are feeling the effects firsthand, as grocery stores are placing limits on the number of meat and dairy items they can purchase.

On WJCT’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Monday, Joe Cline of in San Marco shared what he’s been experiencing.

“For us right now, the past week, week and a half, we've been seeing a little bit of shortages on some items, nothing major yet,” he said. “And basically I've been buying as much as I possibly can because I don't know what the next week will bring.” 

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

He said so far, the shortages have meant improvising. 

“Maybe I don't sell as much filet mignon or New York strips, and I do a lot more hanger steaks or chuck roast or skirt steaks  —  whatever is available making that presence in my case. So where there's not one item, I can get creative and feature another item. Also, you know, I normally don't carry fresh fish here, but starting this past weekend another option on the protein is bringing in fresh fish. We're going to be doing that daily.”

But Brittny Lowrey of The Happy Grilled Cheese noted that some restaurateurs are having a relatively hard time finding what they need right now.

“On the restaurant front, we are seeing a large meat shortage. Sysco has, you know, been out of some pretty common cuts of meat for several weeks now. Restaurant Depot, [which is] for the smaller restaurants that aren't necessarily able to use food distributors like Sysco because they don't have the buying power to do so, are going to see some pretty big shortages right now,” she said, “and it's been getting worse and worse on the restock.”

So, Lowrey said she’s learning to work with what she has, whether it’s different cuts of meats or entirely different proteins altogether. 

Home chefs can do the same, with the help of virtual cooking classes, like the ones offered by Jax Restaurant Reviews, she said.

She also pointed out that restaurant patrons should be a bit more flexible and open-minded right now, especially as more restaurants reopen or expand dining options. 

“Just be aware that you may not see your favorite menu items for a couple of days at a time, and it's not due to the restaurant’s wanting to not provide you with something that may be your favorite. So patience is definitely something that everyone needs to have right now with your restaurants, because we're all adapting almost daily to supply chain interruptions,” she said. 

Katie Delaney, the Fresh Access Bucks Program Manager for Feeding Florida, also appeared on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Monday. Delaney said, while the food supply chain is “fractured,” one way for both consumers and those in the food industry to find what they need is to source what they can locally.

“We're seeing a huge resurgence of folks that are really interested in being in connection to where their food is coming from. Really just...connecting with where it's being grown. I think that when you're sourcing things more locally, it's a shorter supply chain in general...and an opportunity to support the local economy.”

Delaney added, “Pretty much anything that you could get in a grocery store you can get from a producer here in Northeast Florida.” 

That includes everything from produce, to dairy products, to meat from places like , , and Cartwheel Ranch Meats. And, some of it can even be delivered right to people’s doorsteps.

Heather Schatz can be reached at hschatz@wjct.org or on Twitter at @heatherschatz.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit .