As vaccines come in by the shipload, U.S. grocery stores are playing a key role in the distribution effort. Now, Midwest supermarket chain Meijer is administering an arena’s worth of shots. Supermarket News reports that the chain is offering vaccinations at the Detroit Lions’ home, Ford Field, for which Meijer enrolled more than 35,000 people in the first day of accepting appointments. As of Tuesday (March 16), the chain was seeing 2,000 new registrations per hour.
“Our stores and pharmacies have played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic, helping customers at the store, building an online vaccine registry and administering more than 201,000 doses to Michiganders so far,” the company’s President and CEO Rick Keyes said in the company’s news release announcing the initiative. “I couldn’t be prouder of our quick response, but the work isn’t done. We’re excited to bring that technology, and our expert teams, to Ford Field to support the state of Michigan and FEMA in this critical endeavor.”
As Meijer is administering football fields’ worth of vaccines in Michigan, supermarket chains throughout the country are expanding their own administration capacities. Kroger, for one, announced last Thursday (March 11) that it had doubled its capacity to one million doses per week.
“By the end of this week, Kroger Health will have administered one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and we’re only getting started. We’re here to collaborate with our existing federal and state partners, and we’re ready to work with other states to accelerate the vaccination of more Americans and reach our full capacity, leveraging our 2,250 pharmacy and 220 clinic locations,” Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, said in the statement.
California Grocers Sue Cities Over Extra Pay Mandates
After local legislatures in cities throughout California mandated “hero pay” for grocery workers, requiring an additional $3-5 dollars per hour, grocers in San Jose and Daly City are contesting the ordinances, reports Progressive Grocer. The California Grocers Association (CGA), which represents over 300 retailers and 6,000 stores, has filed lawsuits against the two cities.
“In addition to clearly violating federal and state law, the extra pay mandates will harm customers and workers,” CGA President and CEO Ronald Fong said in the association’s news release. “A $5/hour mandate amounts to a 28 percent average increase in labor costs for grocery stores. That is too big a cost increase for any grocery retailer to absorb without consequence. Options are few. Either pass the costs to customers, cut employee or store hours, or close. Already five stores in Los Angeles County have closed after extra pay mandates were enacted.”
The release adds that these pay mandates are “illegal” because they “singl[e] out certain grocers and ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers,” which violates state and federal Equal Protection Clauses. Additionally, it says, “the ordinances are preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process.”
The Fresh Market Gears up for IPO
North Carolina-based supermarket chain The Fresh Market is preparing to go public, reported Grocery Dive. The company initially went public in 2010, but after failing to hold its own against competitors, it was acquired by private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $1.4 billion, which closed many locations, slowed growth and repositioned the store as a premium, gourmet grocer. These and a handful of management changes helped place the company on surer financial footing.
The company announced on Friday (March 12) that it had submitted a draft S-1 registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposing its initial public offering (IPO). The release specified that the number of shares and the price range have not yet been set, and stated, “The Fresh Market expects to use the proceeds of the offering for general corporate purposes, which may include the repayment of indebtedness.”
The company currently operates 159 locations in 22 states.
African Swine Fever Threatens Pork Supply; US and Canada Take Precautions
African swine fever (ASF) has been infecting pigs around the world, reports PORK Magazine, with strains appearing in China, Russia and Germany. The disease is causing widespread uncertainty in the pork market.
“Our view is that average hog prices in 2021 will be lower than in 2020 and subject to strong ups and downs during the year,” said Justin Sherrard, global strategist of animal protein for agriculture-focused financial services company Rabobank, in a report excerpted by the magazine. “At the same time, we see all exporting countries looking to maintain trade with China. Price will be one major factor that determines which countries will maintain high pork trade flows to China in 2021, along with availability and geopolitical considerations.”
The U.S. and Canada are making plans to protect bilateral trade, should ASF be found in either country’s feral swine but not in domestic swine, reports Food Safety News. The countries have agreed to stop trade and restrict swine should ASF be found, resuming when sufficient precautions have been taken, which includes a three-phase protocol.
“Continuing trade with Canada in the event of a feral African Swine Fever detection is important to our stakeholders, and this trading protocol provides the necessary guidance to minimize the impact to the swine industry,” USDA Chief Veterinarian Dr. Burke Healey told the publication. “This collaborative effort uses a science-based approach to ensure trade between both countries resumes as quickly as possible.”