Food-grade CO2 is used to add fizz to soft and alcoholic drinks, and in the meat industry as a “humane” method of stunning animals prior to slaughter.
The closure of an unusually large number of manufacturers for seasonal maintenance has led to dwindling supplies of the gas, with just one UK plant currently in operation.
Deliveries of Heineken’s Amstel and John Smith’s Extra Smooth beers have already been affected, with BigHospitality’s sister site The Morning Advertiser reporting that many pubs are seeing orders disrupted amid a period of high demand during the World Cup.
Impact on meat supply chain
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), whose members supply red and white meat to restaurants, retailers and foodservice companies, said the shortage could last around a month.
It warned a lack of CO2 is likely to have a larger impact on the meat industry than other sectors due to knock-on effects down the supply chain, creating a backlog of animals held longer on farms.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) said on Wednesday that up to 60% of the UK’s poultry processing plants could be shut down within days.
Around 90% of chicken and poultry sold in UK supermarkets is produced domestically, meaning there could be a major impact on retailers.
“These are big plants processing more than 10,000 birds an hour….that would be a significant amount of food not being produced,” Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the BPC, told The Guardian.
The extent of the issue is still becoming clear, though the BMPA said today (21 June) none of its members have stopped production yet.
“We are concerned about the CO2 shortage and we and our members are working with the retailers and government officials to keep the supply chain moving,” said Fiona Steiger, deputy director of the BMPA.
“I have not heard that any of my members have stopped production, so I am confident there will still be meat for your barbecue and roast this weekend.”