Supply chain issues gripping the nation have led to shortages in everything from semiconductors to paper trays at school cafeterias, but Thanksgiving looks to be running smoothly and on time, according to grocery stores in rural Oregon cities.
Dave Meade, Columbia Harvest Foods store manager, said that his store is not having trouble getting turkeys. According to Meade, he expects to get all the turkeys he needs, “several hundred,” he said.
“The issues that we deal with that cause the most problems have to do with are just getting trucks to get product picked up and delivered to distribution centers,” he said. His store’s distribution center is in Spokane, according to Meade.
He said he believes the reported shortages may be regional, not relevant to Umatilla County.
“Turkeys on the table, we’ve got turkey already in our freezer,” said Blaine Huffman, owner of Huffman’s Market in Prairie City. “ I’m sure there’s going to be items we’re going to be short on but on the whole we’re fine.”
Grocery stores have had to adapt to a changing supply landscape that has seen shortages crop up in unexpected places.
“We don’t know one load from the next what we’re going to get — it changes every time,” Huffman said. “The food supply chain is vulnerable, a lot of stuff is still sitting out in the ocean.”
Huffman said he had some issues ordering pre-made pies for Thanksgiving, and the store was out of stock of those items. Supplies for homemade pies, however, were available.
Considering that smaller markets lack the same buying power as larger chains such as Safeway or Walmart, there was a cause for concern that residents in frontier towns, including John Day or Prairie City, might have to travel further to fill their shopping cart for the upcoming holiday. Grocery stores report that while ordering has been a challenge, the staples for a Thanksgiving feast have yet to cause any concerns.
“Before, I was able to buy pallets of certain things like condensed milk — when it comes to those really big staples, a lot of it is on an allocation that you can’t buy big amounts like that because they wouldn’t be able to service everybody,” said Mike Shaffer, operations manager for Chester’s Market in John Day. “As far as staples go, we’re sitting pretty good.”
Shaffer said he has had to order months in advance for key items, especially during Thanksgiving and similar holidays where supplies go fast as the holiday approaches and the deadline for putting the turkey in the oven looms.
For now, the store is well stocked for the upcoming feast, according to Shaffer.
“It was really easy to get what you needed before all this stuff happened and before — I call it a logistical nightmare, but you know all the logistic issues that everyone is experiencing — before that we’d have pretty big item counts, big ads so people could come in and get a good deal on whatever they need for dinner and stuff like that, so it has changed,” Shaffer said. “If you commit to something like we did this year — if you have to reorder it, that’s where you may run into an issue because everybody else is reordering, especially for the season.”
Supply chain issues have cropped up from a myriad of pandemic-related minutiae, such as labor and raw material shortages — including dock workers and truck drivers — to low production yields and increased costs of goods as shipping costs skyrocket due to increases in fuel and container prices.
That means when orders finally arrive at grocery stores, the contents might be less than what was ordered, or the order itself would be delayed.
“It’s hard to plan around, I’ll put it to you that way,” Shaffer said.
Those issues exacerbated an already vulnerable system. Still, the grocery stores remain optimistic about the upcoming holiday.
“It’s not like it was last year,” Huffman said. “I think it will be good, I think everything will be good.”