Some supermarkets are limiting beef, pork, and poultry sales, while Tyson warns things could get worse before they get better.

By Mike Pomranz
May 05, 2020
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Costco’s whole angle is selling in bulk, so when the wholesale club starts limiting sales of an item, the change is a pretty clear signal of supply shortages. Along those lines, we’ve heard rumors of possible meat shortages as COVID-19 cases have shut down processing plants across the country. And this week, Costco has started taking precautions by limiting the amount of meat customers can buy.

In the company’s latest update to its coronavirus response posted online yesterday, Costco explained, “Fresh meat purchases are temporarily limited to a total of 3 items per member among the beef, pork and poultry products.” Currently, it’s the only item listed under “Product Limitations” which the brand states it has implemented “on certain items to help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need.”

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Costco is not the only major grocer currently limiting meat sales. America’s other big wholesaler, Sam’s Club, announced a similar decision. “To ensure access to desired products to as many members as possible, we are limiting the purchase of all poultry, beef, lamb and pork items to one [per item],” Sam’s Club spokeswoman Amy Wyatt said according to The Dallas Morning News. “This is effective in all clubs.”

Kroger—the largest grocery store owner in the U.S.—provided a similar statement, telling the Dallas paper, “Due to high demand and to support all of our customers, we are now limiting the number of ground beef, fresh pork and fresh chicken products to two each per customer” in at least some stores.

And yet, a CNN report on Friday seemed to imply that Kroger added the limit after talk of shortages created a spike in sales just as much as any actual shortages. “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 rep told CNN. “There is plenty of protein in the supply chain. However, some processors are experiencing challenges.”

But even if panic buying is compounding the issue, meat processing closures are a serious problem—and one that could continue to get worse. CNN also reported that meat giant Tyson warned investors yesterday that more meat processing plant closures are likely in the future.