Story at a glance
- Smithfield Foods CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan said the closure of meat facilities will have “severe, perhaps disastrous,” repercussions for many in the supply chain.
- The Smithfield pork plant was closed Sunday as hundreds of employees tested positive for coronavirus.
- The plant processes 4 to 5 percent of pork in the U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing the United States’ meat supply “perilously close to the edge” as Smithfield Foods announced Sunday its closing a key pork processing plant indefinitely after more than 200 employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield, said in a statement.
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals,” he said.
Smithfield Foods is shuttering its Sioux Falls, S.D., facility, one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, which processes 4-5 percent of pork in the U.S. The plant supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day, and employs 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant.
The decision to close the plant came a day after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken urged the company to suspend operations so workers could self-isolate and the plant could be disinfected.
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The meat-producing company said it will resume operations once further discretion is received from local, state and federal officials. The company says it will compensate its employees for the next two weeks and hopes to “keep them from joining the ranks of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans across the country.”
Smithfield is one of several meat companies that have suspended or cut back on production due to the coronavirus in recent weeks. JBS USA has closed a beef plant in Pennsylvania and cut production at a facility in Colorado, while Cargill and Tyson Foods have closed plants in Pennsylvania and Iowa, according to NPR.
There’s no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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