The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine could hurt the dairy and cheese industries due to an increase in dry ice demand

Source: By M.Hall, Business Insider • Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2020

Dry ice, the colloquial term for frozen carbon dioxide, is commonly used in the food industry to keep ingredients at a low temperature for cross-country travel. A block of dry ice has a temperature of about -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or -78 degrees Celsius – much colder than the average freezer or a standard ice cube made of water.

Supplies of dry ice are now in high demand as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is set to begin around the United States. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation, is expected to have the first coronavirus vaccine cleared by US regulators. Unlike most vaccines however, Pfizer’s is required to be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celcius.

Moderna, a biotech company, also produced a coronavirus vaccine and recently applied for emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin vaccine distribution. Moderna’s vaccine is not required to be kept in as cold of an environment as Pfizer’s, but will still require copious amounts of dry ice to store and ship across the country.

On Wednesday morning, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced his plan to use up to $3.25 million in funding from the CARES Act to support the state’s nine ethanol producers. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of ethanol production and can later be processed into dry ice.

ASCO Carbon Dioxide Ltd, a Swiss dry ice manufacturing company providing pelletized dry ice to customers worldwide, told Insider in an email the company is “getting a lot of inquiries for dry ice production solutions by pharmaceutical firms.”

The company said it is also receiving inquiries from logistics companies that are expecting to deliver the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The challenge is that they need huge amounts of dry ice in a very short timeframe,” the company said.

As Minnesota’s governor alluded to on Tuesday, the increase in demand for dry ice could interrupt the cheese and dairy industries which also rely on dry ice.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association recently appealed to state and federal officials to reserve the necessary 350,000 pounds of dry ice every week to keep up with the demand.

Rebekah Sweeney, the communications education and policy director for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, explained to Insider that dry ice is essential to the cheese-making industry.

“Dairy cultures have to be kept in a super frozen state to be viable and culture manufacturers and their distributors use 350,000 pounds of dry ice per week to supply worldwide,” Sweeney said. She also mentioned the dairy industry uses dry ice to package and distribute its products around the world and is responsible for $620 billion of economic impact in the US alone.

But with proper action, which Sweeney says the governors of Minnesota and Wisconsin are currently taking, she’s not concerned about the industry.

“It’s amazing to hear that things seem to be taken seriously and it seems like people are rising up to meet that challenge,” Sweeney said.

Dan Geiger contributed reporting.

Read the original article on Business Insider