Some locations of fast-food chain Wendy’s—known for its 1980s slogan, “Where’s the beef?”— are no longer offering beef on their menus. Customers in California, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois reported that the chain removed beef burgers, with some locations posting handwritten explanations of the change. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Wendy’s said, “As you’ve likely heard, beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges. Because of this, some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time.” Several years ago, Wendy’s differentiated itself from competitors such as McDonald’s and Burger King by being the first fast-food chain to offer “fresh-never-frozen” beef. 

While other chains can procure frozen meat imported from other countries, Wendy’s is at a disadvantage as fresh meat supply chains have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 20 slaughterhouses nationwide suspended operations by late April after workers—who often stand shoulder-to-shoulder and have little time for sanitation needs—tested positive for the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 5,000 slaughterhouse workers have not been infected with COVID-19 and 20 have died as a result. Last week, Trump signed an executive order to keep slaughterhouses operational despite them being hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks.

Wendy’s is reportedly still selling chicken and pork products, along with beef in some locations. However, the disruption in the meat supply chain is soon expected to create shortages of those animal products as well. This week, big box chains Costco and Sam’s Club—which supply both individuals and foodservice businesses—have put a three-item limit on all beef, pork, and chicken products amid the meat shortage. 

Kroger—America’s largest supermarket chain—implemented similar limits this week on those products. However, the chain also partnered with Impossible Foods, which will fill the emptying meat cases at 1,700 Kroger locations with its plant-based burgers this week

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart