Costco has started to put a limit on how much meat customers are allowed to buy at one time. The decision comes as an impending shortage is likely coming in the near future, given the reported slowdowns at processing plants across the country.
According to CNN, Costco's decision was made to "help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need." Kroeger, another retail outlet, made a similar decision last week. While several states have already begun to lift their Stay-at-Home regulations after weeks of quarantining, there's a growing concern at the number of workers at these processing plants that are falling ill to coronavirus. So far, Tyson Foots, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA have closed about 20 facilities combined. As Bloomberg noted, those closures make up roughly 25 percent of pork-processing and 10 percent beef-processing capacity in the country.
On April 13, Tyson told WHOTV that two of its employees at Columbus Junction have died, though their names were not released. "We're deeply saddened by the loss of two team members at our Columbus Junction plant. Their families are in our thoughts and prayers," the company said in a statement. "We continue working diligently to protect our team members at facilities across the country by taking worker temperatures, requiring protective face coverings and conducting additional cleaning and sanitizing. We're implementing social distancing measures, such as installing workstation dividers, spreading out work stations where possible, and providing more breakroom space."
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has estimated that roughly 20 meat processing plant workers have died from COVID-19 so far. UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued a statement on Tuesday urging action from the federal government as "our nation's food supply are in greater danger every day that companies and leaders fail to act during this outbreak."
"It is clear that our food supply chain is threatened, and that is why our country's elected and corporate leaders must act now," Perrone's statement continued. "Tyson and every company across this vital industry must immediately join with UFCW in calling for federal and state elected leaders to designate these frontline workers as first responders."
Meat is just the latest item that's expected to have its supply-line impacted thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier on, toilet paper became a hard-to-find item, as did hand sanitizer, soap and eggs at various points over the past several weeks.