Costco, Kroger limiting meat purchases amid food supply shortage worries

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Costco limits how much meat customers can purchase

Costco announced it is limiting three meat purchases per customer as it continues dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic.

The company's announcement comes as concerns rise about strains on the nation's food supply chain.

On Tuesday, Kroger also reportedly began limiting meat purchases.

As of Monday, Costco also began requiring all of its customers to wear protective masks. Members are also being encouraged to bring their own reusable shopping bags. Only two people per membership card are being allowed into stores at a time.

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On Tuesday, almost 60 percent of Tyson Foods’ processing plant in Iowa were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, the chairman of Tyson Foods said the nation's food supply is in jeopardy. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has infected hundreds of workers at meat processing plants and forced some of the largest to close and others to slow production. While the output at beef and poultry plants has diminished, pork plants in the Midwest have been hit especially hard.

RELATED: Some Kroger stores limit beef, pork purchases amid coronavirus

That alarmed President Donald Trump who, within two days of John H. Tyson's comments, signed an executive order requiring meat processing plants to remain open during the pandemic. Trump used the authority granted to him under the Defense Production Act.

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The viral outbreaks have persisted despite efforts by the meat companies to keep workers at home with pay if they become sick.

The 15 largest pork-packing plants account for 60% of all pork processed, so when even one of those plants closes for days or weeks, the consequences ripple across the industry. That has become abundantly clear with two of the nation’s biggest plants now closed: Tyson suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa.

Smithfield Foods also has halted production at its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In his full-page ad in The New York Times, Tyson warned “there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

Georgia produces about 8 billion pounds of poultry annually, or about 15% of the nation's production, according to the Georgia Poultry Federation. Meanwhile, Georgia's chicken industry employs as many as 45,591 people across the state and generates an additional 125,004 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
Tom Hensley, president of Baldwin-based Fieldale Farms, a major poultry company and one of the largest employers in Hall County, responded to Trump's plans matter-of-factly.
"We intend to continue producing great-tasting chicken, so the order will not alter our plans," said Hensley, who serves on the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association's executive committee. "Everyone needs to eat every day, so the food supply is critical to our wellbeing."

Tyson temporarily closed a pork processing plant in Waterloo last week after more than 180 coronavirus infections had been linked to the plant.

The Kroger Co. had already imposed limits on pork and ground beef products at some of its stores, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. On Saturday, the New York-based Tops Friendly Markets announced limits on fresh chicken, fresh beef and fresh pork, allowing customers two packages of each, local station WGRZ reported.