H-E-B imposed its strongest purchase limits on meat this week but lifted restrictions on how much toilet paper and other paper products customers can buy.


To help avoid a meat shortage, the San Antonio-based company is limiting customers to 2 pounds of ground beef and two other meat products per purchase. It has lifted earlier restrictions on canned and dried goods.


Previously, restrictions were limited by the kind of meat, such as two packages of chicken, beef, pork and turkey each, but now that meatpacking plants have become COVID-19 hotbeds and the industry has warned of future shortages, the state’s top grocer decided to preemptively institute the strictest limits on meat purchases yet.


Although there are many millions of pounds of meat in cold storage, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to keep processing plants open even when the coronavirus is present. Farmers say they are still having to consider culling their animals, which, as food news outlet the Counter recently reported, could have its own devastating environmental effects. Many of the largest meatpacking facilities have instituted temperature checks and other virus-tracking measures, but workers are also calling in sick at unprecedented rates.


It’s a mess for the supply chain that is now affecting H-E-B shoppers, who might have to shop more frequently (or shop elsewhere) because of the restrictions.


"H-E-B has a strong supply of meat product for our stores," a company representative said. "Product limits are in place to protect the supply chain and ensure all customers have access to the products they need and leave some for their neighbors."


In a surprising twist, H-E-B stores in the Houston area, as well as Abilene, Big Spring, Burleson, Cleburne, Granbury, Hudson Oaks, Midland, Odessa, San Angelo and Waxahachie, have fewer limits on meat purchases. Shoppers in those areas can buy four packages of ground beef, four packages of chicken and two briskets, with no listed limit on pork or turkey.


An H-E-B representative didn’t say how long the restrictions would be in effect or why there are varying restrictions around the state. The H-E-B-owned Central Market still has some limits on other items, including eggs, beans and rice, but it does not have any purchase limits on meat at any of the stores in Texas.



Customers at H-E-B are also limited on these nonfood items:


• Acetaminophen — two items total (includes baby, trial and travel sizes, over the counter).


• Baby wipes — two items.


• Disinfecting and antibacterial sprays — two items.


• Disinfecting and antibacterial wipes — two items.


• Trial- and travel-size disinfecting and antibacterial sprays/wipes — two items.


• Liquid bleach — two items.


• Hand sanitizer — four items.


• Hand soap — four items.


• Aloe vera — two items (digestive health, skin care/sun care, healthy living).


• Hydrogen peroxide — two items.


• Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol/swabs — two items.


• First-aid and cleaning gloves — two items.


• Masks — two items.