For the time being, Costco will limit beef, pork and poultry purchases to a total of three items per member. Costco has implemented limits on certain items to help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need, the retail chain said. “Our buyers and suppliers are working hard to provide essential, high demand merchandise as well as everyday favorites."
Costco offered no further, immediate details about the new limits. But the food retailer is hardly alone in making this move during the pandemic.
Just a few days ago, for example, Kroger imposed its own such limit, reportedly applying it to fresh pork and ground beef at select stores. Albertsons also said it had implemented a temporary limit of two packages per household on select meat items. Customer purchases will be limited to two packages of beef, chicken, and pork (this means they can purchase up to six packages of meat – two per commodity). Albertsons, via a company spokesperson, added that “we are not experiencing and do not anticipate any issues with supply or product availability. We did so to prevent panic buying and to ensure more of our customers can find the products they need.” Stop & Shop has implemented its own limit of two meat packages per customer.
Worries about the country’s supply chain of meat products for food retailer customers have run high in recent weeks as more reports surfaced of the virus hitting workers at the nation’s meat processing plants. Last month, after Smithfield Foods shut down a pork-processing plant in South Dakota when workers there tested positive for COVID-19, CEO Kenneth Sullivan said that the U.S. was “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” Since then, meat-processing facilities operated by Tyson and JBS USA have shut down amid the pandemic.
As meat processors worry about plant closures, the consumer demand for meat continues to remain at high levels, leading food retailers to impose their own purchase limits. One recent data point, from Chicago-based IRI (Information Resources Inc.), found that sales of meat have increased at least 91% during the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as more economies start to reopen, it seems likely that sales of meat will remain subject to purchase limits by food retailers.