JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Costco on Monday implemented purchasing limits on fresh meat because of the slowdown at processing plants during the coronavirus pandemic.
The company announced it’s limiting shoppers to three items of beef, pork and poultry products to “help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need.”
Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, announced a similar rule last week. The limits are because of high demand from shoppers while top meat suppliers are temporarily closing their factories because workers are falling ill.
Publix is only limiting the number of purchased raw poultry to two packs. News4Jax was told there’s no limit on pork and beef.
“Because of this shortage, people are going to have to limit themselves due to everybody needing to continuously feed their family. It’s not just about one person," said customer Penny Powell. “I think it’s a pretty good idea right now because we have already seen what happens when things are not limited."
Winn-Dixie has no limit on the amount of meat that customers are allowed to purchase.
News4Jax attempted to contact Walmart several times on Monday to see whether it had placed any limits on meat purchases, but no one answered the phone.
At Cline’s Custom Meats in Jacksonville, owner Joe Cline said his business has felt the impact of less meat production.
“We’re facing another challenge besides the coronavirus. We’re seeing the aftereffect on that as far as beef shortages," Cline said.
But Cline said he believes the impact will only be temporary until meat processing plants are back up to full speed operation.
“We’ve got a pretty good supply chain with who I deal with. And if it comes down to certain cuts that are not available, other ones will be available,” Cline said. "And no one is coming in here to buy a whole lot, and I won’t allow that because we have a regular base here that shops here daily.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated last week that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far. The union said last week the closures have resulted in a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10% reduction in beef slaughter capacity. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order aimed at keeping meat plants open during the crisis.
In the wake of the executive order, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods was also resuming “limited production" Monday at its pork plant in Logansport, Indiana, where nearly 900 employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
Tyson Foods warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year. The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the outbreak. The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, Tyson said in its earnings call.
Costco has put in place several changes since the pandemic began in mid-March. It has adjusted hours, limited the number of people that its members can bring in and is requiring shoppers to wear face coverings in its stores.