Wendy's pulls burgers off menu in some locations due to meat shortage

The company says it expects the changes to its menu at some locations to only be temporary.
/ Source: TODAY

Meat shortages at grocery stores and other food retailers across the nation have turned a famous 1980s catchphrase into an ominous question at some Wendy's locations around the country.

Where's the beef?

Some Wendy's restaurants have taken their signature hamburgers off the menu, with shortages being reported at locations in California, South Carolina and Kentucky on Monday as coronavirus outbreaks continue to disrupt the meat supply chain.

"Some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time at some restaurants in this current environment,'' Wendy's said in a statement to Restaurant Business. "We expect this to be temporary, and we're working diligently to minimize the impact to our customers and restaurants."

The Wendy's burger shortage at some locations comes amid reports that about 5,000 meat and poultry plant workers contracted the novel coronavirus in 115 plants across 19 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several of the nation's largest meat processing plants have temporarily shuttered operations due to the outbreak. The closures have halted 25% of pork production and 10% of beef production in the U.S, according to Bloomberg.

Some customers posted on Twitter about being notified by their local Wendy's at store locations or on the company's app that there was a beef shortage.

Wendy's, which has about 5,800 locations across the country, has long offered fresh, never-frozen beef patties on its burgers, which has now left the company more vulnerable to disruptions in the U.S. supply chain than other fast-food outlets that rely on imported beef from overseas or frozen products.

"What you see with this is less supplies and higher prices, and whether we're talking beef, pork, chicken, lamb, whatever your favorite is, we are already seeing really skyrocketing prices at wholesale for meat," David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, told Vicky Nguyen on TODAY Tuesday.

The fast-food chain isn't the only food purveyor feeling the pinch, as the grocery chain Kroger has announced it will limit ground beef and fresh pork purchases in some of its stores. Costco has also said it will be restricting purchases of fresh beef, pork and poultry items to three per customer.

For those looking for more ways to buy meat, Nguyen outlined some other options on TODAY, including direct-to-consumer shipping companies like Omaha Steaks or Crowd Cow, restaurant suppliers now selling in large quantities or local farms looking to sell their produce directly to consumers.