Food safety

National Guard troops could help with coronavirus testing at food plants, Iowa governor says

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said the National Guard could help with coronavirus testing and contact tracing as more food and meat processing plants in the state close due to concerns about contamination.

The National Guard has moved 250 members to full-time federal duty to help with tracing the virus for workers at Tyson Foods and National Beef Packing, according to Bloomberg.

Iowa makes up nearly a third of the U.S. pork supply, which is causing concerns that fresh-meat shortages and inflated prices could ensue if more plants close.

Wholesale pork has already experienced its most significant three-day gain in six years, while farmers are concerned that a lack of demand for their cattle is pushing down the prices that slaughterhouses are willing to pay.

“At some point, we’re going to have to be talking about euthanizing hogs, and we’re not that far from it,” Reynolds said in a press briefing. “And that would be devastating, not only for the food supply but for the cost of food going forward.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Friday a $19 billion bailout to assist farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, adding $3 billion for the purchases of dairy and meat products.

JBS USA — one of the world’s largest beef and pork processing companies — said Monday it would close a pork processing plant in Minnesota as Gov. Tim Walz (D) cited concerns that some workers may have caught the virus from a Smithfield Foods plant in South Dakota.

Bob Krebs, president of JBS USA Pork, said the scope of the coronavirus is “far more widespread across the U.S. and in our county than official estimates indicate based on limited testing.”

He added, “We have taken aggressive actions to keep coronavirus out of our plant and keep this critical infrastructure facility operational.”

Tags Coronavirus Food industry Meat industry Meat packing industry Pork Tim Walz

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