Chicken meat has become the latest victim of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, with shelves all over Australia sitting empty and KFC forced to slash its menu due to staff shortages at poultry supplier Ingham’s.
“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant across eastern Australian states from December 2021 and the resulting staff shortages, are now also having a significant impact on the Australian supply chain, operations, logistics and sales performance of Ingham’s, and some of its suppliers and customers,” Ingham’s said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday. The company’s share price dropped over 6% as a result.
Amid increased cases of Omicron infection among staff, Ingham’s had to slash production amid “significantly lower levels of staff availability which is impacting production volumes and operational efficiency.” Staff shortages hit processing plants the most, which forced Ingham’s to sell more whole chickens to its customers.
According to market sources, Australia’s branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) – a popular fast food chain that bases its entire menu on chicken – is among Ingham’s largest customers.
A KFC spokesperson confirmed to Guardian Australia the chain was experiencing “supply chain disruptions nationally due to Covid-19 related absenteeism at our chicken suppliers,” and said that some of the restaurants will be unable to offer their full menu in the coming weeks. Also, local media reported empty shelves in the chicken sections of some grocery stores.
Chicken is popular worldwide for being the cheapest meat on the market. According to Guardian figures, it costs an average of AUS $5.43 (US $3.90) per kilogram in Australia, which is less than half the price of pork and beef. Industry statistics show that chicken is Australia’s most popular meat, with locals eating nearly 47 kilograms of chicken a year each.
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