Why is there a beer shortage in the US?

Ber and meat lovers may have trouble getting their favorite products this fall. This is because the US is experiencing a carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage, which is causing problems for many breweries and food suppliers across the country.

Food and beverage companies such as Tyson and Kraft Heinz have struggled to find suppliers for the gas, which is used to fizz drinks and freeze frozen meats and pizzas. Some local breweries have even had to shut down their facilities due to the shortage – which could mean fewer jobs and higher beer prices.

What causes a lack of carbon dioxide

A number of factors have contributed to the current situation, but US trade group the Brewers Association says the most likely culprits are CO2 plant maintenance shutdowns and general summer beverage demand.

“While many of the specific issues facing the market are new, various supply chain issues have been experienced since the beginning of the CO2 pandemic,” the Brewers Association said in a statement. “This is one of the many areas where small brewers are facing increasing costs and availability issues.”

Some analysts attribute the current density in part to contamination at the carbon dioxide well of Jackson Dome, an extinct volcano in Mississippi earlier this summer. The owner of the site, Denbury Energy, attempted to drill new CO2 wells to fulfill its industrial contracts, but the CO2 allegedly contained contaminants, according to Gasworld.

In a statement to TIME, Denbury said the contamination was a minor problem.

“The CO2 produced at Jackson Dome has been produced and continues to be produced in accordance with all regulatory requirements, and the composition of the delivered carbon dioxide continues to meet contractual specifications,” it said.

“We have worked with certain customers, such as food and beverage quality requirements, to address processing issues they have experienced in their supply chains. Our customers receive the full amount of CO2 they require.

According to the Brewers Association, the shortage of drivers is further hampering the delivery of gas, especially for local delivery. It says many of the supply issues are worse in the Southeast, but CO2 shortages and quality issues have been reported across the US since mid-summer.

The Compressed Gas Association, another US industry trade group, does not expect relief until at least October, when scheduled maintenance on CO2 industrial facilities is expected to end.

Brewers are being squeezed

The beer industry has been hit particularly hard by the shortage, forcing some smaller breweries to consider raising their prices to offset rising costs and stay afloat. Some are even experimenting with CO2 alternatives such as nitrogen.

“We use CO2 all the time,” Bryan Van Den Oever, owner of Red Bear Brewing Company in Washington, D.C., tells TIME. “Our supplier has informed us that they are not taking on new customers, but at some point they may tell us that they cannot meet our needs, which is worrying because beer is our main product.”

“There was a premium for all the CO2 that our supplier sent us recently,” he added.

When Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Fla., learned that its CO2 supply was down for the foreseeable future, twelve employees were told their jobs could be cut as the brewery moved its production to another source. “Our plan was to continue working through the issues, but this latest CO2 issue has basically thrown a huge wrench into every one of those plans — even threatening immediate production,” Night Shift Brewing wrote in a statement posted on Facebook in July.

For craft breweries, extra CO2 is often added to the beer during the fermentation process, in the tap room to push the beer through the lines into the glasses, and when the beer is put into cans. Van Den Oever says that if the shortage worsens, his brewery may use nitrogen instead of CO2 in the fermentation tank, although that is a worst-case scenario. Nitro beer often has less carbonation, which gives it a smoother, creamier texture, meaning an IPA and a pilsner can have different flavors.

Some larger breweries are able to capture and reuse the CO2 produced during brewing, but this is not an option for smaller brewers as the equipment is expensive and can take up a lot of space.

Other food and beverage industries also depend on carbon dioxide

The lack of CO2 isn’t just affecting the beer industry: the gas is commonly used in almost everything we consume. In addition to fizzing in drinks, it helps to quickly cool food to be frozen. Carbon dioxide is even used to make dry ice and can be used to kill animals humanely.

There could also be less fresh meat in local grocery stores. The The Wall Street Journal reported that Tyson and Butterball were among the companies affected by the lack of CO2. Cold cuts preserved with CO2 and other gases can also be affected. Modified atmosphere packaging removes oxygen and pumps in CO2 to give products a longer shelf life, but companies such as Kraft Heinz have warned retailers of the potential shortage of turkey and bologna products. Kraft Heinz did not respond to a request for comment.

Frozen foods such as vegetables and pizzas also use CO2 for freezing and preservation to prevent bacterial growth.

For manufacturers unable to find alternative sources, the next few months could be difficult. “We hope the shortage will be resolved, but it won’t sound until at least autumn,” says Van Den Oever. “So it’s just an ongoing thing that we’re dealing with.”

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write Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com.