Some Kroger stores have begun to limit the amount of meat customers are allowed to purchase in each visit, according to associates at multiple Cincinnati-area locations.
New signs posted near store displays on May 1 request that customers buy only two packages of meat products at a time.
In a statement, Kroger spokesperson Erin Rolfes wrote the limits only applied to ground beef and fresh pork. However, meat department workers in Newport, Kentucky, and at Cincinnati’s Hyde Park store said they had been told chicken was included in the new policy as well.
“At Kroger, 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,” Rolfes wrote. “There is plenty of protein in the supply chain; however, some processors are experiencing challenges.”
The challenges referenced in Kroger’s statement likely include COVID-19-related interruptions at major meat suppliers across the country, many of which have been unable to protect workers from the virus even as pressure mounts to continue processing and packing food.
In late April, six days after the country’s largest meat supplier shut down a major processing plant due to high rates of worker infection, President Donald Trump invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to declare meat processing plants “critical infrastructure” — places where work ought to continue, even during the pandemic, with the help of the federal government.
It was a move meant to prevent further shutdowns and forestall the possibility of shortages. Still, despite the implementation of new health and safety standards at many plants, infection remains a concern for workers.
In a May 1 survey of 130,578 meat processing plant workers across 19 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 4,913 had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
USA Today predicted Friday that meat shortages would not become as widespread as toilet paper shortages had in the earliest days of the pandemic. Customers are more likely to see localized shortages of specific cuts or types, not entirely empty shelves.
This story was originally published by staff at WCPO.