A CO2 Shortage Is Threatening the Beer and Meat Supply in the U.K. During the World Cup

June 21, 2018, 1:49 PM UTC

Amid World Cup festivities and summer barbecues, producers of beer, soft drinks, and meat are reporting vast shortages due to a EU-wide shortfall of food-grade CO2.

Supplies for CO2 began fizzling out two months ago due to planned shutdowns at major ammonia plants. Meanwhile, a number of European bio-ethanol plants—another source of CO2—have also shutdown for planned maintenance.

CO2 is used to carbonate liquid—such as soda and beer—as well as during the bottling and kegging process.

The ill-timed shutdowns have left Northern Europe with only five CO2 producers—the U.K. is left with only one. Trade journal Gas World has described the gas shortage as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades.”

Big name brewers and individual pubs alike are warning consumers of the major crisis that could stifle their World Cup toasts. Heineken, the U.K.’s biggest brewer, said its CO2 supplier was facing “a major issue” in the region. The brewer has warned pubs to expect major shortages of its Amstel and John Smiths brand.

Britain’s biggest pub, Wetherspoons also reported it’ll be forced to pull a number of beers and carbonated drinks from its menu soon.

However, the beer industry isn’t the only one left high and dry this season.

The clear, odorless gas is also vital to the production and packaging of meat. Nine of the U.K.’s largest poultry plants have already warned of the “critical” shortage in CO2, which is likely to affect the usual distribution of poultry products throughout Britain—including restaurants like Nando’s, McDonald’s, and KFC.

According to the British Poultry Council, upwards of 60% of the U.K.’s processing plants could be shutdown within days if the CO2 crisis remains unresolved.

”In the middle of a World Cup, when fans across the globe want to watch the football with a beer in hand, the timing could not be worse,” said Francois Sonneville, senior analyst at specialist food and agribusiness bank Rabobank.