Supply chain issues around the world are forcing retailers to take drastic steps to keep shelves stocked so that as many customers as possible have a chance to purchase items like fuel and food if they want to do so.
And now it looks like these issues are finally hitting home for some of us in the United States.
Temporary meat shortages due to COVID-19 have pushed some grocery stores around Volusia County to limit fresh chicken purchases.
Currently, all Sam’s Club locations are limiting the purchase of all fresh chicken products to a 2-pack limit per person.
Sam’s isn’t the only retailer constricting the number of products consumers can buy; others are taking action, too.
The nation’s second-largest grocery chain after Sam’s Club parent company Walmart, Kroger is also enacting supply control measures to maintain its ability to meet customer demand.
“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. 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,” Kroger said in a statement to reporter Marine Glisovic, blaming supply-chain issues for the limitations.
Kroger’s new purchase rules now impact all categories of fresh meat, “including Beef, Pork and Ham, and Lamb, Veal & Bison.”
With the nation’s leading grocery chains limiting the number of meat products customers can purchase, it is only a matter of time before this impacts smaller retailers down the chain.
Though retailers are taking a proactive approach to address these issues, it doesn’t seem like the regulations are universally applied. That means that consumers need to check with their local grocery retailers to see what, if any, limits currently exist for fresh meat products. It also helps to keep in mind that these limits are a temporary measure to stave off product supply disruptions so hopefully everything is sorted out later this year.
In the meantime, we did some digging to see what, if any, measures were being taken by other grocery chains such as Costco, Wegmans, HEB, and Hy-Vee.
For their part, Costco is limiting fresh meat purchases to 3 items per member. Hy-Vee, meanwhile, is limiting customers to four packages per customer of any combination of beef, pork, chicken, or ground beef.
“Costco has implemented limits on certain items to help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need,” the company announced. “Our buyers and suppliers are working hard to provide essential, high demand merchandise as well as everyday favorites,” the company said in a statement to Supermarket News.
HEB is currently keeping policies on a store-by-store basis but reports indicate that the retailer is allowing customers to purchase 5 fresh meat items of any combination of beef, chicken, or pork while also placing a two package limit on frozen beef and chicken.
In what is the most direct reference to the need to maintain supply chains, prevent hoarding, and support operations to the fullest extent possible, HEB cited purchase limits as a “proven way” to prevent such a scenario.
“To help protect the supply chain in Texas, we’ve implemented temporary purchase limits on certain items. Limiting product purchases is a proven way to ensure the best service and product availability for all customers. Our stores are in strong supply and we continue to restock products daily,” the chain said to the website Supermarket News.
It’s not just grocery store chains that are feeling the pinch, either, as restaurants are also experiencing shortages right now with chicken being a particularly hot commodity.
Again, the difficulty in obtaining enough products to meet demand has a range of causes but experts cite specific issues related to chicken processing in the United States including COVID-19 outbreaks at plants, increased consumer demand, and challenges from the weather itself.
“Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature, when she inflicted the once-in-a-lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states — major chicken-producing regions. It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region,” the National Chicken Council’s Tom Super told ABC News.
Indeed, the unprecedented demand has not only led to shortages but wildly fluctuating prices for chicken as well, a phenomenon hitting mom-and-pop restaurants really hard.
Lendy’s Cafe and Raw Bar in Virginia co-owner Kent Von Fecht told ABC News, “In my 26 years of business, I’ve never seen a chicken wing shortage. The prices have fluctuated, but nothing like this. Hopefully, it goes away.”
Similar to the problems experienced by mom-and-pop restaurants, massive, global chains like KFC are also curtailing operations to meet the challenges of the current market.
A recent marketing campaign touting the company’s popular chicken tenders is being put on indefinite hold. One of the more labor-intensive items to produce, the boneless tenders are one of the many products waylaid due to COVID-19 supply-chain issues and delays. KFC is, instead, focusing on those products that it has in “abundant quantities.”
Other chicken restaurants backed up KFC’s strategy and reiterated the common refrain heard from many in the industry.
“The chicken wing farms in America, they’re having trouble retaining and recruiting employees. When that happens, they can’t process the birds fast enough, they have to feed them more, the feed costs have gone up, the birds are getting bigger and they can’t process and get them out,” co-owner of a Duff’s Famous Wings Greg Duell told Fox Business.
According to Duell, the price of chicken wings has gone up some 99% percent since the onset of the supply shortage.
Again, many industry analysts and experts consider this a temporary correction, and regular purchases of meat should resume as soon as supply-chain issues are worked out. In the meantime, consumers should check with their local grocery retailer to see what if any restrictions they may have on fresh meat purchases and plan accordingly.