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Pizza shops across US facing scariest shortage of them all: Pepperoni!

The effect of the coronavirus on meat processing plants is making America's favorite pizza topping much more expensive.
Pepperonip pizza
Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Pizza shops in the United States are now dealing with the unthinkable: not having enough pepperoni to meet the demand for America's favorite pizza topping.

Small pizza shops around the United States reported pepperoni prices are rising, while the supply of the popular topping is getting tighter. Pizza shop owners are paying as much as $2 more per pound compared to the time before the pandemic, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

A worker at New York Pizza wearing a mask is seen packaging
Pepperoni prices have increased during the pandemic, limiting the supply of the popular topping at pizza shops across the United States.Robin Utrecht / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Pepperoni is made from a cured mixture of pork and beef. It's then seasoned with spices such as paprika and chili pepper to give it that slightly smoky flavor that goes so well on top of a pizza.

Barry Friends, a partner at foodservice consultancy Pentallect, told Bloomberg that since pepperoni is labor intensive and has a low profit margin, some producers have opted to make less as they focus on remaining efficient in their other operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pork processors “are basically just shipping out large pieces of meat for further processing,” Friends told Bloomberg. “They’re not doing as much because they don’t have the people to do the work.”

Just how popular is pepperoni? A majority of people, 53%, selected pepperoni as on of their top three favorite pizza toppings, according to a survey conducted last year by YouGov.

There have also been other instances of supply chains being interrupted during the pandemic, leaving popular food items in short supply.

In May, dozens of processing plants across the U.S. reported thousands of confirmed coronavirus cases from employees working during the pandemic. The spread of the virus at the facilities prompted them to cut back on their operating hours or shut down entirely.

With factories operating at a limited capacity or not all, major meat brands such as Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods were among those reporting a decline in output. Costco, Kroger and other grocers limited customers' purchases of pork and beef products to account for the scarcity.

Last week, Dr. Pepper became the latest brand to announce a shortage of its product on store shelves amid the pandemic. Toilet paper brand Charmin, a popular panic buy at the start of the pandemic, had a cheeky response to the soda brand's tweet.

"Welcome to the club," Charmin tweeted, along with a winking emoji. "We feel your pain."