Coronavirus-related closures have strained meat inventory at restaurants and in grocery stores, but now a mushroom shortage is developing.

According to a statement from an organization representing U.S. mushroom farmers, we’ve quickly gone from having way too many mushrooms to not having enough.

Before you buy a portabella to replace your hamburger with a mushroom burger, you’ll want to know what’s happening.

 

First, farmers had too many mushrooms and had to get rid of them.

After hitting record sales numbers in early 2020, mushroom farmers saw a 90% reduction in orders for their produce when quarantine began in mid-March, as they lost their primary customers: restaurants.

With way too much product on hand and a limited shelf life, farmers either had to donate their mushrooms, or in many cases, throw them away. Anybody who sold mushrooms was doing so at a deep discount.

 

Then, demand spiked as people started cooking at home.

According to Rachel Roberts of the American Mushroom Institute, after the initial hit to mushroom farmers, demand from retailers increased. Grocery stores were putting in big orders to farmers that the farmers suddenly didn’t have the ability to fill.

Some areas, Roberts says, are now experiencing shortages as a result. Normally mushroom farms can source from each other to fill shortages, but since they were all experiencing the same things, they’re all scrambling to ramp up production again.

 

 

Expect 6-10 weeks of shortages in some areas while we wait for mushrooms to grow again.

Unlike most other produce — which is continually bearing fruit — mushrooms have a 6- to 12-week growing cycle.

As we’re waiting for supply to grow and catch up with demand, Roberts says we can expect to have about 2 months of realllllly wishing they hadn’t thrown those mushrooms away.

 

Mushroom prices have jumped 86% since last August.

A USDA report from August 2019 showed an average price of $1.34/lb for mushrooms, and a May 8, 2020 report showed an average price of $2.49/lb. Even before the coronavirus impacted growers, mushroom prices were on a steady rise.

It’s still cheaper than beef, though, which is about $3.75/lb. So go ahead and make that mushroom burger — if you can find the goods (just don’t panic-buy).

 

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