Can we just fast forward through the rest of 2020?

By Betty Gold
June 25, 2020
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First there was a meat shortage. Then beef, pork, and chicken surged in price, as did breakfast cereal, eggs, beans, and the other groceries you’ll find here. The latest increase? Cheese prices have soared to a record high.

According to Business Insider, a 40-pound block of cheddar—which is the benchmark for trading cheese on the market—reached $2.585 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on June 8. This means prices were up by nearly 160 percent from April's price of $1, which was a 20-year record low.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, from getting used to social distancing and working from home to maintaining a social life over video chat, stocking up on face masks, and of course, cooking nearly every meal at home.

The food industry itself has fluctuated tremendously as a result of the pandemic. Whether directly or indirectly, the restaurant closures, shelf-stable food hoarding, grocery store lines and limitations, and poor manufacturing conditions have challenged every home in America. This—on top of the fact that we’ve all been making every meal in our own kitchens—has invited a wide range of supply chain issues and price fluctuations.

Cheese was met by the perfect storm. Thanks to the sudden restaurant and school closures, the demand for cheese initially dropped when the pandemic hit. This caused suppliers to pivot sales to foreign markets, which gladly snapped up the super low-cost supply of dairy products.

All of this was happening right as most Americans started cooking every meal at home, which meant purchasing endless extra groceries. Everything changed. The demand for cheese from retailers has now risen nearly 30 percent since pandemic shutdowns went into effect, compared to the same period last year.

Unfortunately, now that restaurants are starting to reopen, many suppliers are still tied up in export contracts and are struggling to get back in the U.S. market.

Alas. Cheese is in short supply, and we should brace ourselves for higher prices until the supply chain issues are ironed out. Seeing as restaurants are still in a limbo state and most cheese producers are wary of upping production (if we have a second wave, they’ll be back at square one), it may be a while.

Not that you can really replace something as perfect as cheese, but if you’re looking for a delicious vegan alternative (that tastes like parmesan and Umami), check out nutritional yeast.