BMeat and meat lovers may have a hard time finding their favorite products this fall. This is due to a lack of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the United States, which is leading to complications in a number of breweries and food suppliers across the country.
Food and beverage companies, such as Tyson and Kraft Heinz, struggling to find suppliers of gas, which is used to put sizzle in drinks, freeze meat and frozen pizza. Some local breweries have even had to suspend operations at their facilities due to shortages – which could mean fewer jobs and higher beer prices.
What causes carbon dioxide deficiency?
A number of factors led to the current situation, but the shutdown of CO2 plant maintenance and general summer demand for the beverage are the most likely culprits, according to the Brewers Association, a US trade group.
“While many of the issues identified in the market are new, CO2 has faced various challenges in the supply chain since the start of the pandemic,” the Brewers Association said in a statement. “This is one of the many areas where small brewers are facing cost increases and availability issues.”
Some analysts have also partly attributed the current narrowing to carbon dioxide contamination at the Jackson Dome, a dormant volcano in Mississippi, earlier this summer. Denbury Energy, the site’s owner, has attempted to drill new carbon dioxide wells to fill its industrial contracts, but the carbon dioxide is reported to contain pollutants, according to Gasworld.
Denbury said pollution was a “minor issue” in a statement to Time magazine.
“The carbon dioxide produced at Jackson Dome has been produced and is being produced under all regulatory requirements, and the carbon dioxide composition delivered continues to meet contractual specifications,” she said.
“We have worked with some of our customers, such as food and beverage grade requirements, to address processing issues that were present in their distribution chains. Our customers receive all the CO2 they require.”
The Brewers Association says the lack of drivers is further impeding the gas supply, particularly with local delivery. It says many of the supply challenges are worse in the Southeast, but reports of carbon dioxide shortages and quality issues have been reported across the United States since midsummer.
The Compressed Gas Association, another US industry trade group, does not expect to see any relief until at least October, when scheduled maintenance at the carbon dioxide industrial facilities is expected to be completed.
Beer producers are under pressure
The beer industry has been hit hard by the shortage, forcing some smaller breweries to consider raising their prices to offset higher costs and stay in business. Some are experimenting with alternatives to carbon dioxide, such as nitrogen.
“We’re constantly using carbon dioxide,” Brian van den Auever, owner of Red Bear Brewing Company in Washington, D.C., told Time magazine. “Our supplier told us they haven’t received any new customers…but at some point they may come to us saying they can’t meet our needs, which is worrying because beer is our main product.”
“There has been an additional charge on all CO2 emissions that our supplier has sent us recently,” he added.
When Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Massachusetts, learned that its supply of carbon dioxide had been cut for the foreseeable future, a dozen employees were told their jobs might be cut off because the brewery moved its production to a different source. “Our plan was to continue to solve problems, but this latest CO2 problem has thrown a huge wrench into any of those plans — threatening even immediate production,” Night Shift Brewing wrote in statement Posted on Facebook in July.
For craft breweries, additional carbon dioxide is often added to the beer during the fermentation process, in the tap room to push the beer through the lines into the cups, and when the beer is put into cans. Van Den Oever says that if the shortage worsens, his brewing company may have to use nitrogen in the fermentation tank instead of carbon dioxide, although that’s a worst-case scenario. Nitro beer often contains less carbonation, which gives it a smoother, creamier texture, which means IPAs and pilsners may have different flavours.
Some large breweries are able to capture carbon dioxide from beer production and reuse it, but this is not an option for smaller brewers because the equipment is expensive and can take up a lot of space.
Other food and beverage industries also depend on carbon dioxide
The lack of carbon dioxide affects not only the beer industry: the gas is commonly used in almost everything we consume. In addition to creating sizzle in drinks, it helps cool foods that are going to be frozen quickly. Carbon dioxide is even used to make dry ice and can be used for human slaughter of animals.
Fresh meat can also be in short supply at local grocery stores. The The Wall Street Journal She mentioned that Tyson and Butterball were among the companies affected by the CO2 shortage. Deli meats, which are preserved using carbon dioxide and other gases, can also be affected. Modified packaging in the atmosphere ejects oxygen and pumps in carbon dioxide to give products a longer shelf life, but companies like Kraft Heinz have warned retailers of potential turkey and bolognese shortages due to shortages. Kraft Heinz did not respond to a request for comment.
Frozen foods, such as vegetables and pizza, also use carbon dioxide to promote freezing and preservation to prevent bacterial growth.
For producers unable to find alternative sources, the next few months can be challenging. “Hopefully the shortage will be resolved, but it doesn’t look like that will happen, at least during the fall,” van den Auver says. “So this is just an ongoing thing that we will deal with.”
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