The restriction comes as the U.S. nears a meat shortage due to COVID-19 closures

By Morgan Raum
May 05, 2020 05:56 PM
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People wear masks while stocking up on groceries at BJ's Wholesale Club in Freeport, New York on April 3, 2020.
| Credit: J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty

As concerns over a looming nationwide meat shortage continue to grow, Kroger is taking preemptive measures. The supermarket chain has officially introduced purchasing limits in all stores on fresh chicken, pork, beef, and ground beef, according to KATV News.

"A Kroger spokesperson tells @KATVNews they're limiting meat purchases in ALL stores," reporter Marine Glisovic wrote on Twitter. "I just went to the Kroger in the Heights. Signs say 2-pack limit."

Previously, Glisovic had shared a statement that said only select Kroger locations were implementing restrictions. "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," the company wrote. "There is plenty of protein in the supply chain; however, some processors are experiencing challenges. At this time, we've added purchase limits only on ground beef and fresh pork in some areas."

Additionally, the retailer chain posted an alert under numerous sections on their website, including Beef, Pork and Ham, and Lamb, Veal & Bison. "Please note that due to high demand, we temporarily have limited inventory on various items. We appreciate your patience as we work to restock," the message says on each page.

Kroger did not immediately reply to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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The restrictions come after news that some of the world's biggest meat companies have ceased operations at slaughterhouses and plants across North America. As of April 28, at least 22 meatpacking and food processing facilities have closed over the past two months due to the spread of the virus, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union wrote in a statement.

On Sunday, April 12, Smithfield announced it would be shutting down its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, until further notice. According to the company, the location is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the United States and accounts for 4 to 5 percent of the nation’s pork production. They're said to supply some 130 million servings of food per week — 18 million servings a day — and employ 3,700 workers. It also works with more than 550 independent family farmers for its livestock.

Other meat suppliers including Tyson Foods, Cargill, National Beef Packing, and JBS USA are producing less meat than usual and closing plants at several locations across the country. Some have reopened with additional safety measures, like partitions between workers and employee health screenings.

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Even major fast-food chains appear to be affected by the looming meat shortage. Some of Wendy's locations have taken hamburgers off of their menu.

"Some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time at some restaurants in this current environment,'' the popular burger joint said in a statement to Restaurant Business. "We expect this to be temporary, and we're working diligently to minimize the impact to our customers and restaurants."

WATCH: First Taste: Watch People Food Editors Try Wendy's New Breakfast Menu Items

In an executive order issued on Tuesday, April 28, President Donald Trump used the Defense Production Act to ensure that as many plants as possible will stay open — despite recent discussions that several companies might keep only 20 percent of their facilities in operation out of health concerns, CNN reported.

“It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry ('meat and poultry') in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans," he wrote in the order. "Any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain."

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