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Keesler Air Force Base personnel select limited meat items for purchase inside the base commissary on March 20, 2020.
Keesler Air Force Base personnel select limited meat items for purchase inside the base commissary on March 20, 2020. (Kemberly Groue/U.S. Air Force)
Keesler Air Force Base personnel select limited meat items for purchase inside the base commissary on March 20, 2020.
Keesler Air Force Base personnel select limited meat items for purchase inside the base commissary on March 20, 2020. (Kemberly Groue/U.S. Air Force)
Sgt. Dawnavan Wysalde, left, and Sgt. Luis Colon (right), veterinary food inspection NCOs with the Fort Drum Veterinary Treatment Facility, U.S. Army Public Health Activity, check the quality of meat products at the commissary on Fort Drum, N.Y. April 24, 2020. The food safety mission on Fort Drum makes up about half the workload for the team at the Fort Drum veterinary clinic.
Sgt. Dawnavan Wysalde, left, and Sgt. Luis Colon (right), veterinary food inspection NCOs with the Fort Drum Veterinary Treatment Facility, U.S. Army Public Health Activity, check the quality of meat products at the commissary on Fort Drum, N.Y. April 24, 2020. The food safety mission on Fort Drum makes up about half the workload for the team at the Fort Drum veterinary clinic. (Warren W. Wright Jr./U.S. Army)

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AUSTIN, Texas – Commissary shoppers throughout the United States will face limitations on the amount of fresh meats that they can purchase in military grocery stores because of an anticipated shortage in the supply chain, the Defense Commissary Agency announced.

Beginning Friday, customers in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, can only purchase two packages of fresh beef, chicken, pork and turkey, according to the news release from the DCA, which manages a worldwide chain of grocery stores on military bases to provide military personnel, retirees, select veterans and their families food and household products.

The limits on meat purchases stem from a rash of processing plant closures related to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 20 meatpacking plants have closed temporarily, because of outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers, The Associated Press reported. Others have slowed production as workers have fallen ill or stayed home to avoid getting sick.

“There may be some shortages of fresh protein products in the coming weeks,” retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, Defense Department special assistant for commissary operations, said in a statement. “Enacting this policy now will help ensure that all of our customers have an opportunity to purchase these products on an equitable basis.”

Depending on supply, each store can increase or decrease as needed, according to the news release. Each affected store will post quantity limits to inform customers, similar to signs indicating limits for toilet paper, sanitizers, canned food items and other items in high demand because of the pandemic. Limits on those items began March 14 and vary based on location.

Placing shopping limits on fresh meat will particularly keep commissaries that don’t receive daily meat deliveries from having their meat inventory wiped out because of panic buying, Bianchi said. These limits will be removed once supply chain operations return to normal.

“We always recommend to our customers that they purchase what they need and avoid any panic buying to ensure products are available for others in their communities,” Bianchi said.

Overseas commissaries are not impacted because the agency has enough supply on hand to avoid limits in stores, according to the release.

“Our overseas supply chain remains strong,” Bianchi said. “In addition, we continue to prioritize quantities for our overseas shipments, so we should be able to support the demand. If we experience any unexpected major hiccups in the pipeline, we will look at expanding shopping limits to other locations.”

From the start of the coronavirus outbreak, commissaries overseas – starting with stores in Italy, South Korea and Japan – instituted shopping limits on items such as hand sanitizers, disinfectants and toilet paper.

“We know this is a potentially stressful time for all concerned,” Bianchi said. “But together we will meet these challenges and support our service members and their families throughout the duration of this crisis wherever necessary.

Thayer.rose@stripes.com Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.
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