A fire at a commercial egg farm last week in Stockholm Township, Minnesota, burned down a barn and left thousands of chickens dead. Although the exact count is unknown, the loss of the structure and the chickens will impact egg production going forward, as bird flu continues to torment poultry farmers. The fire is just another data point in a lengthy line of fires at commercial food facilities, with there being at least 16 major fires since the beginning of 2022.
Conspiracy theorists have been having a field day with the developing pattern. Although there is no definitive answer as to what is happening, there have been claims that the destruction is part of a coordinated attack on the food supply to produce food shortages in the coming months. If that were indeed the case, and the incidents were to continue, it would make an already growing problem worse.
President Joe Biden said in a speech earlier this year that food shortages are on the way. Russia and Ukraine are responsible for a quarter of the world’s wheat harvest. The West has banned imports from Russia, and over 22 million tons of wheat are stuck at Ukraine ports because of a blockade. India is one of many countries that have imposed a ban on domestic exports of wheat, diminishing the supply available for the rest of the world.
Here in the United States, a massive drought is threatening this year’s harvest. This is following a 2021 harvest that was the lowest in the U.S. since 2002. All these factors taken into account suggest that U.S. consumers may experience empty shelves in the fall.
It is difficult to conceive that there is a systemic attack on the US food production infrastructure that has not been uncovered. If it were determined that a foreign actor was responsible, such as Russia or China, it would be tantamount to an act of war.
There is, however, a more benign explanation: incompetence. It is possible that the competence level of employees has dropped across the industry uniformly to the point where fires and accidents have become commonplace. This is the most likely scenario, given that not one of the fires has been ruled arson.
Whatever the case, the fires at our food processing plants are making an already tenuous situation worse.