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Pet owners scrambling to find certain foods; experts warn supply chain disruptions could continue through 2022

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 25, 2022

BALTIMORE — It’s not just meat and cream cheese that’s become harder to find, certain pet foods are in short supply. Industry experts warn that this issue isn’t likely to improve soon but there are ways to find alternative products.

David Cohn has been searching for his cat's favorite food since last year.

“The first time we noticed all the shelves were empty, out of cat food, I took a picture saying I know there are shortages -- toilet paper and paper towels, and all this, but cat food?” Cohn said.

He posted that photo on his Facebook page in February of 2021, and to this day, he still scours local grocery stores.

“We live in Reisterstown. We even go all the way up to Carroll County. So, we were going to Giant and Weis and Food Lion and Walmart, often if we couldn’t find it in the supermarket, Walmart would have it but within the last six months even Walmart didn’t have what we were looking for,” said Cohn. “We said, ‘Well, we’ll just pick a different flavor and she’ll eat it.’ Well, finicky cat that she is, no.”

Many pet owners can sympathize. Dozens of people responded to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii’s Facebook post about finding pet food online and in-person. One viewer commented that she started making her own cat food after she couldn’t find it in stores on the Eastern Shore. A worker at a veterinary hospital also said most of their prescription food is backordered.

“Some regions are more impacted by others, but it is country wide,” said Dana Brooks, president & CEO of the Pet Food Institute, which represents pet food makers.

Brooks compared the service interruptions in the pet food supply chain to what consumers have been seeing with the human food supply chain.

“There are some supplements, vitamins, and minerals that we don’t even mine in the United States that aren’t available that we have to import and if you know what’s going on in those ports, especially on the West Coast, that also creates a bottleneck,” said Brooks.

Brooks added that an ongoing aluminum shortage is impacting canned goods and fish has been harder to source.

In addition, PFI said:
“The ingredient marketplace is further impacted by the increased and unfair competition for oils and fats caused by federal and state mandates and incentives promoting renewable fuel production. These ingredients are critical for pet food recipes and used in the production of renewable diesel. PFI and its members support efforts to fight climate change, but current policies create a government-driven market advantage to the energy sector and a disadvantage to companies purchasing ingredients for pet food.”

“When can consumers expect this situation to improve?” Sofastaii asked Brooks.
“Oh, I wish I could say tomorrow, but I’m very concerned we’re going to see this challenge into 2022 as well,” Brooks responded.

Even so, PFI is assuring consumers that “pet food makers are working to safely produce complete and balanced nutrition for dogs and cats. We encourage shoppers to only purchase the amount of food they would regularly need and recommend contacting the individual company for assistance regarding a specific pet food product.”

“It may be something that they know from their taste trials that pets would also prefer,” Brooks added.

She also recommends consumers keep a two-week supply of food. And Brooks stressed that pet owners don’t need to worry about food running out, they just may need to look a little harder by visiting different stores or ordering online.