Analysts Say Nearly 1 In 5 Wendy's Locations Out Of Beef

The coronavirus crisis has put a huge strain on the meat industry, which has warned of shortages in the coming weeks.

Nearly 1 in 5 Wendy’s locations across the country are out of beef for the fast food chain’s signature fresh hamburgers, according to one analysis viewed by HuffPost on Tuesday.

Analysts at Stephens Inc., a financial services firm based in Arkansas, reported that 1,043 Wendy’s restaurants ― or about 18% ― have listed beef items as out of stock. Some of those locations are still selling Wendy’s chili, which contains beef, the report notes.

The beef shortages vary from state to state, with locations in New York, Connecticut, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana impacted particularly hard. Anecdotal evidence from social media posts also points to scattered outages in other areas from California to Illinois.

Wendy’s has marketed its hamburgers as “fresh, never frozen,” for decades. But that makes it more susceptible to supply chain disruptions than other fast food outlets like McDonald’s, which freezes its burger patties.

“It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges,” a Wendy’s spokeswoman said in a statement to CNBC.

“We continue to supply hamburgers to all of our restaurants, with deliveries two or three times a week, which is consistent with normal delivery schedules. However, some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment,” the spokeswoman said.

Several major U.S. meat processing plants have temporarily shuttered due to the number of workers spreading the coronavirus in their close-quarter workspaces. Farmers are being forced to consider slaughtering and discarding hundreds of thousands of pigs, cows and chickens ― and some have already started doing so.

Such disruptions in the nation’s meat supply indicate a wider meat shortage is on the horizon.

The Stephens analysts could not predict how long beef would remain difficult to obtain for Wendy’s restaurants, although the firm did note that it still considers Wendy’s “a stock to own.”

Late last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in which he used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing plants as essential infrastructure, urging Tyson Foods and other major suppliers to keep their facilities open despite worker infections and deaths. But Trump himself has suggested his order would merely help “solve any liability problems” that could arise from companies compelling workers to risk their health.

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