Kroger, a large supermarket chain, said it is adding purchase limits on ground beef and fresh pork in some stores. Other large grocers say they expect to be out of stock on different types of cuts soon.
In recent weeks, top meat suppliers have announced temporary closures as their workers fall ill with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated on April 28 that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far. The union said last week the closures have resulted in a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity and a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week to compel meat plants to stay open during the crisis.
Adding to the challenge, meat sales are up around 40 percent in recent weeks, according to data shared by grocery industry trade group FMI. “The demand for product also makes it difficult to keep the store shelves stocked as they were at pre-pandemic levels,” said a spokesperson for the group.
Grocers don’t expect meat shortages, but they say they are adjusting to the spike in demand and the difficulties securing supply.
“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,” said a Kroger representative. “There is plenty of protein in the supply chain. However, some processors are experiencing challenges.”
A spokesperson for Wegman’s said, “we may not have every product cut or variety available for the next few weeks,” but the company does not anticipate any shortages.
The slowdown is also hitting smaller chains.
In New York City, grocery chain Morton Williams’ co-owner Avi Kaner said the “most severe shortages have been with packaged cold cuts,” because consumers want pre-packaged items right now instead of meat from the deli counter. “Beef prices have increased the most, followed less so by pork and poultry.”
At Karns Food in Pennsylvania, the chain has put limits on ground beef and some fresh chicken.
“We do anticipate periodic out of stocks and higher prices in the coming weeks,” said Andrea Karns, a representative of Karns Food in Pennsylvania.
While meat may be harder to find, Karns is using the shortage as an opportunity to expand its seafood selection, including fresh lobsters from Maine and Maryland crabs.
The CNN Wire and Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.