The effect of the coronavirus on meat supplies is beginning to be felt in several retail channels.
Costco and Kroger have both put limits on meat purchases. Costco announced on May 4 that it would limit customers to three purchases apiece of fresh beef, pork or poultry. Kroger, the largest U.S. supermarket chain, is imposing limits on ground beef and fresh pork in some stores.
Other chains have been anticipating shortages, although none of the larger ones have imposed comprehensive limits. Although hoarding of many supermarket items seems to have eased since the beginning of the crisis, meat buying is continuing at a furious pace, with sales up 40% in the last couple of weeks compared with last year.
On the foodservice side, Wendy’s Co. has announced that it anticipates a shortage of hamburgers, and analysts found in a random sampling of menus at Wendy’s restaurants that up to 10% were chicken-only.
Meat and poultry processing has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with Tyson Foods and others forced to close plants. President Trump signed an executive order April 28 removing the ability of state and local authorities to close meat plants.