You finally have enough toilet paper, and you happily spy cleaning products, hand soap and other necessities when picking up groceries and household goods for your family. But you might want to make sure your freezer is nicely stocked with protein before letting down your guard.
That’s because the specter of meat supply shortages in the U.S. is starting to affect the nation’s grocery stores. Many retail and wholesale chains, including Costco, will be limiting beef, poultry and pork purchases to make sure more customers can buy what they need.
Planning for a Temporary Shortage
In early April, Smithfield Foods closed its facility located in Sioux Falls, S.D., due to a large number of their employees testing positive for the novel coronavirus. The plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., accounting for as much as 5% of the country’s pork production. Tyson Foods suspended operations at some of its meat processing facilities, as well.
In fact, at least 38 meatpacking plants in the U.S. have shut down operations at some point during the pandemic, according to The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been tracking the closures. This has led to a 35% drop in meat production since the same time last year; the Wall Street Journal says to expect the shortages to intensify.
Because of this, many major grocers are setting limits on purchases of beef, pork and chicken.
- Costco is only allowing customers to purchase up to three meat items, including beef, pork and poultry.
- Kroger customers are limited to two items each of fresh beef, chicken and pork.
- Giant Eagle customers can only grab two total meat items per trip.
- Safeway is currently limiting shoppers at Southern California stores to two packages of beef, pork and chicken.
- Sam’s Club is limiting the purchase of all poultry, beef, lamb and pork items to one per item.
Limits Set to Prevent Hoarding
Experts say that grocery stores are not setting limits on meat products because they are in short supply. Instead, these restrictions have been put in place to avert potential panic-buying and hoarding. The supermarket chains want to make sure there is enough for everyone.
Food marketing expert Phil Lempert believes these limits are a good idea.
“We don’t have to hoard,” Lempert told CBS Los Angeles. “It’s true that we’re down to about 60% capacity in our meat processing facilities, again across all of those types of animal proteins, but it will come back, it will come back soon.”
In the meantime, why not try your hand at a few vegetarian dishes?