Costco, Kroger rationing meat amid coronavirus shortage fears

Limits could mean customers must go out to buy food more often

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Costco, Kroger and other grocery chains are rationing the amount of meat customers can buy at one time as processing at U.S. meat plants has slowed down or stopped completely because of the coronavirus.

Costco, a chain known for letting customers buy in bulk, is limiting purchases to three items per member of beef, pork and poultry products.

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Kroger said its meat purchase limits will apply to select stores.

"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," a Kroger spokesperson told FOX Business. "There is plenty of protein in the supply chain; however, some processors are experiencing challenges. At this time, we've added purchase limits only on ground beef and fresh pork."

A shopper looks for packaged meat at Westborn Market in Berkley, Mich., April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Regional chains Food Lion and Wegmans are cracking down on customers trying to stock up, too.

Food Lion has limited meat purchases since mid-April, a spokesperson told FOX Business. Wegmans is limiting customers to two items each of ground beef and boneless, skinless chicken breast, WHEC reported.

Such limits could mean customers must go out to buy food more often. Walmart and Sam's Club are also limiting customers' meat purchases, WKRC reported.

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The limits on shoppers come as the meat industry tries to return to normal after roughly three percent of employees at infected meat and poultry processing plants contracted coronavirus.

Major producers including Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and Cargill had to shutter plants in April after workers contracted the virus. Now facilities including a Tyson Foods pork plant in Logansport, Ind., will begin to restart this week.

THESE MEAT PLANTS ARE REOPENING

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Making changes at plants to protect workers and prevent the spread of the virus is expected to slow down plant activity.

The situation may have been different had producers taken steps to protect workers from coronavirus earlier, food supply chain expert Howard Dorman of Mazars USA told FOX Business.

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"Plants implementing safety procedures will slow down processing as well," Dorman said. "Should they have done this five weeks ago? Eight weeks ago? Yes, but the reality is we are where we're at right now."

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