The chairman of Tyson Foods warned Sunday that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking after coronavirus outbreaks forced the closure of their plants.
John Tyson said ‘millions of pounds of meat’ will fail to reach stores and there will be a ‘limited supply of our products available in grocery stores’ until they are able to reopen facilities currently closed.
It comes after it was announced two million chickens will be killed in Delaware and Maryland because of lack of employees at processing plants.
Tyson Foods announced last week that it was shuttering two pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. At least 13 plants in total are said to have closed across the US.
Chairman Tyson said Sunday: ‘We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America.
‘This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.’
Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, pictured, after operating at reduced capacity
ATyson Foods Inc unit said on Thursday it will temporarily halt production at a beef facility in Pasco, Washington, pictured, adding to the meat processing plant the company has had to shutter as it tests workers for COVID-19
Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, pictured, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19
Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after operating at reduced capacity.
Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19.
John Tyson, pictured, has warned that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking
The company also temporarily closed a beef processing plant in Pasco, Washington.
The closures are limiting the amount of meat the United States can produce during the outbreak and adding stress on farmers who are losing markets for their pigs.
Lockdowns that aim to stop the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented farmers around the globe from delivering food products to consumers.
Millions of laborers cannot get to fields for harvesting and planting, and there are too few truckers to keep goods moving.
Tyson’s statement, in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday, came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer.
Employers have struggled to contain the virus in meatpacking plants, where workers toil side by side on production lines and often share crowded locker rooms, cafeterias and rides to work.
One Tyson worker at the plant in Waterloo told CNN he called HR amid concerns coronavirus was at the facility.
Ernest Latiker said: ‘I was scared for me and my family. They told me I was safe and they told me that everything was ok.
‘They told me I have a better chance of catching the coronavirus going out to Walmart than at Tyson, if you come to work you’re safe.
‘I wanted to believe to them and I needed the money at the same time so I went to work.’
Plant employees tested positive for the virus, and others stayed home out of fear of becoming infected. The facility slaughters about 19,500 hogs a day, or about 5 per cent of total U.S. pork production, according to industry data.
Tyson Foods worker Ernest Latiker, pictured, said he called HR amid coronavirus concerns
Tyson’s statement in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer
Spread of coronavirus closes meat plants
Some of the facilities that have shut or reduced production as coronavirus spreads:
JBS USA said it would indefinitely close a pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota, that processes 20,000 hogs a day.
JBS closed a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, until April 24.
Smithfield Foods indefinitely shut a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant that produces about 4% to 5% of U.S. pork.
Smithfield also shuttered two plants in Wisconsin and Missouri that process bacon and ham.
Tyson Foods Inc closed a hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa. It has since reopened
National Beef Packing Co suspended cattle slaughtering at an Iowa Premium beef plant in Tama, Iowa
National Beef said it suspended operations at a Dodge City, Kansas, beef plant for cleaning and to install stainless steel partitions
Aurora Packing Company temporarily closed a beef plant in Aurora, Illinois
JBS shut a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania. It reopened on April 20
Cargill closed a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that produces meat for U.S. grocery stores
The health department in Ogle County, Illinois, on April 17 ordered a Rochelle Foods plant owned by Hormel Foods Corp to close for two weeks
Hormel-owned Alma Foods suspended production at a Kansas plant until May 4
Sanderson Farms Inc reduced chicken production to 1 million birds a week from 1.3 million at a plant in Moultrie, Georgia.
‘Consumers will see an impact at the grocery store as production slows,’ Tyson Fresh Meats Group President Steve Stouffer had said last week.
‘It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.’
After the closure of the Logansport facility, slaughterhouses that account for 19 per cent of pork production in the United States will be shut.
And coronavirus-related staffing shortages at chicken processing plants will lead farms in Maryland and Delaware to destroy nearly two million chickens.
The Baltimore Sun reported Friday that the plants are unable to keep pace with the number of birds that are ready for harvest. They had been placed into poultry houses as chicks several weeks ago.
The chickens will not be processed for meat.
The trade group the Delmarva Poultry Industry said that every poultry plant on the Delmarva Peninsula has struggled with a reduced worker attendance. The reasons include workers being sick with the coronavirus and people following guidance to stay home if sick.
The Delmarva Peninsula includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The trade group said that one unidentified company has become the first to do what’s called ‘depopulation.’ The trade group said the company was unable to find other options, such as allowing another company to take the chickens.
Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc said the chickens will killed ‘using approved, humane methods’.
The former Chief Veterinary Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Clifford, said at the time of avian flu ‘the fastest way and probably the most humane way to take care of this’ was to ‘shut off ventilation systems.’
The trade group said that the extermination methods have been approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for handling cases of infectious avian disease.
Brazilian-owned JBS USA and WH Group’s Smithfield Foods have also each indefinitely closed massive pork plants in Minnesota and South Dakota, respectively.
Reduced meat output comes as demand has increased at grocery stores, while restaurant dining rooms are closed due to the virus.
Tyson said 2,800 workers at the Iowa plant would be compensated during the closure and invited to the facility later this week for coronavirus testing.
There are more 957,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States as of Monday. The death toll has reached 55,519.
As Tyson becomes the third large pork processing plant to close following a coronavirus outbreak, there are fears about a break in the food supply and a shortage of fresh meat. Pictured is an empty chicken and poultry food case in New Jersey on March 13
Smithfield Foods plant in South Dakota could reopen ‘in a matter of days’
South Dakota’s governor on Monday said she hopes Smithfield’s Sioux Falls pork processing plant can reopen soon, a day after U.S. labor regulators urged the meat industry to adopt certain measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus among workers.
‘I’m hopeful that we can get it opened as soon as possible,’ Kristi Noem told Fox News Channel in an interview.
‘They have some mitigation measures to put in place, but I think in a matter of days it could be opened, as long as everybody continues to work together and get it done.’
Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, has shut down several U.S. plants due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees, raising concerns about the nation’s meat supply and worker safety.
Its cases in Sioux Falls triggered a so-called hot spot of U.S. coronavirus cases. Noem, a Republican, was among the few governors who did not issue stay-at-home orders.
On Sunday, the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued new interim guidelines with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for meat industry workers to be at least 6 feet apart, have their temperatures checked and wear face masks.
The outcome of the tests and other factors will determine when the facility will reopen, according to the company.
Other U.S. meat and poultry plants are operating at reduced capacity. Tyson is running a pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, with limited operations after idling it for two weeks.
Iowa farmer Randy Francis delivers 300 pigs to 500 pigs a week to the Waterloo plant for slaughter that are backing up in his barns. He hopes to truck the animals to other plants, but they are already overloaded with other hogs displaced by the shutdowns.
The pigs will put on more weight than normal due to the delays, Francis said. That could make their meat fattier or tougher to chew when they are eventually slaughtered, he said.
‘It’s definitely scary times,’ Francis said.