Wendy’s Stops Selling Burgers; Costco, Kroger Rationing Meat as Shortages Hit Hard
Meat supply chain severely impacted as plants close due to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic-triggered meat shortage is starting to hit Americans hard as grocery stores Costco and Kroger announce a new rationing policy, while fast-food giant Wendy's has stopped selling burgers altogether.
Wendy's restaurant has been forced to remove burgers from the menu in some locations, citing a meat shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, angry customers took to social media after realizing Wendy's trademark item was no longer available for order.
Select locations across the country now only have chicken items available for takeout and delivery.
Outraged customers blasted the restaurant, posting "Where's the beef?" on Twitter, invoking Wendy’s catchphrase from the 1980s.
It's a shocking move for Wendy's, a restaurant that established itself as the first fast-food chain to offer fresh "never frozen" beef, and the decision could be a signal of what's to come at restaurants across the country.
Outbreaks of the virus at meatpacking plants across the country have reportedly led slaughterhouses to shutter, farms to kill off animals they can no longer feed, store shelves to empty, and now restaurants to alter their menus.
Beef shortages were reported at Wendy's locations in California, South Carolina, and Kentucky on Monday.
In Chicago Wendy's "Baconator" bacon cheeseburger was still available for order.
"As you’ve likely heard, beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges," Wendy’s said in a statement.
"Because of this, some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time at some restaurants in this current environment.
"We expect this to be temporary, and we’re working diligently to minimize the impact to our customers and restaurants."
McDonald's Canada said in a statement it will start sourcing beef from outside the country to make ends meet due to meat shortages.
"Due to unprecedented COVID-19 impacts on the Canadian beef supply chain, we are temporarily adjusting our supply to incorporate beef from outside Canada – from pre-approved McDonald’s suppliers and facilities globally – in order to meet the current demand, effective immediately," McDonald's Canada branch said in a statement.
Both McDonald's USA and Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, said they don't expect shortages at this time.
Meanwhile, grocery warehouse Costco said on Monday it would limit customers to just three packages of meat per shopper.
Kroger supermarkets posted an alert on its website saying there is a limited inventory "due to high demand."
Over 20 meatpacking plants have shuttered following COVID-19 outbreaks among employees.
At least 20 workers have died and at least 5,000 workers have tested positive for the virus.
As of April 27, 4,913 meat and poultry plant workers in 115 plants in 19 states had been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
Three of the country's biggest pork processing plants – Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota, and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa have shut down.
Together they account for 15 percent of pork production.
Last week President Donald Trump invoked an executive order to keep plants open and prevent a further meat shortage.
Tyson Foods said Monday: "Operationally, we have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety."