Costco, Kroger to limit customer purchases of beef, fresh pork products in stores

Nearly 20 of the nation's largest meat processing facilities have closed due to coronavirus-related issues.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Sky McCarthy

Following mounting concerns over potential meat shortages in grocery stores, Kroger and Costco, two of the nation's largest food retailers, said they will start limiting customer purchases of beef and pork products in stores. Costco will also be limiting how many poultry items shoppers may purchase.

The announcements come after several of the nation's largest meat processing plants have temporarily shuttered operations due to the coronavirus outbreak.

When reached via email Friday, a spokesperson for Kroger was not immediately able to elaborate on which stores or regions would be placing limits on customer purchases, or what those limits would be specifically.

"At Kroger, we feel good about our ability to maintain a broad assortment of meat and seafood for our customers because we purchase protein from a diverse network of suppliers," the spokesperson told TODAY. "There is plenty of protein in the supply chain; however, some processors are experiencing challenges."

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Costco posted its announcement to its COVID-19 updates page Friday: "Fresh meat purchases are temporarily limited to a total of 3 items per member among the beef, pork and poultry products." The new guidelines apply to all of its warehouse locations.

To meet the demands of more people, the big-box retailer also reiterated that its "buyers and suppliers are working hard to provide essential, high demand merchandise as well as everyday favorites."

The announcements come after several of the nation's largest meat processors, including Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, have indefinitely closed nearly 20 facilities that process mostly beef and pork products. According to Bloomberg, these closures have halted 25% of pork production and 10% of beef production in the U.S, prompting warnings of shortages in the near future.

In response to the growing number of factory closures, last week President Donald Trump ordered meat-processing plants to stay open during the pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases have been linked to meat processing plants. At least 20 deaths have been reported.