The CEO of Smithfield Foods has claimed the country’s meat supply is at risk as the company is forced to close one of the country’s largest pork processing facilities until further notice due to the coronavirus.
The facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is closing as a number of its employees have fallen ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and is one in a list of plants that have shut down during the crisis.
‘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,’ the meat processor’s CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday.
‘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.’
Smithfield has closed its Sioux Falls pork processing plant in South Dokata after around 240 of its employees becamse infected with Covid-19
Sullivan said Smithfield had been operating during the coronavirus crisis because it wanted to sustain the nation’s food supply.
‘We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,’ he said.
Smithfield announced a three-day closure last week so it could sanitize the plant and install physical barriers to enhance social distancing. But on Sunday, it announced the plant’s indefinite closure.
According to Smithfield, the plant accounts for 4 to 5 percent of the country’s pork production. It supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day.
There has been no evidence that the coronavirus is being transmitted through food or its packaging, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The plant also employs 3,700 people who will now be out of work due to the plant’s closure, and many of those employees have been infected with the virus.
According to Smithfield, the plant accounts for 4 to 5 percent of the country’s pork production
It supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day
The announcement came a day after South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wrote to Smithfield and urged the company to suspend operations for 14 days so that its workers could self-isolate and the plant could be disinfected.
Speaking during a news conference on Saturday, Governor Noem said that Smithfield employees accounted for more than half of the active cases of the coronavirus in the state.
Of the roughly 430 active cases in South Dakota, about 240 of them are employees of the plant.
She said that the mayor and herself spoke to Smithfield to recommend that the company suspends operations for at least two weeks.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem the Mayor of Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wrote to Smithfield to urge them to close the plant as cases rose
Maggie Seidel, Noem’s senior advisor and policy director, said in an emailed statement Sunday that science and data support a 14-day closure to slow the spread of the virus in the community.
‘Obviously, the situation is dynamic and changing by the day. The industry (like the country) needs to fight its way through this situation – and it will – and make adjustments as it changes. As a critical infrastructure industry in our nation’s food supply, the Governor is committed to working with them to get through this,’ Seidel wrote.
Some activity will be maintained in the plant on Tuesday to process the inventory, Smithfield said, as it prepares for a full shut-down. It said that it would compensate employees for the following two weeks.
Other meat processing plants across the country have also shut down due to sick employees, including processors in Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Tyson, another of the world’s largest meat processors, has suspended its operations at one of its plants in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after over 20 of its workers contracted Covid-19.
The company said it would re-direct its livestock that was due at the plant in Columbus Junction to other plans to reduce the impact on supply.
Another key meat processor, JBS USA, ceased its operations for two weeks at its beef plant in Sounderton, Pennsylvania, and plans to re-open on April 16.
Several members of the plant’s management team could not go into work due to experiencing flu-like symptoms, leading to the decision to close the plant.
Speaking to CNN Business, Jon Nash, North America lead for Cargill Protein said: ‘This will allow us to minimize the impact of COVID-19 and continue [to] follow health department guidelines.’
South Dakota has seen six deaths resulting from the virus so far. The United States of America has now seen 561,767 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 22,129 deaths.
Meat and packing plant closures across the U.S
JBS USA shut a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, until April 16, after previously cutting production.
JBS reduced production a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, due to high absences among workers, according to the local United Food and Commercial Workers union. The company said high absenteeism led slaughter rates to outpace the process of cutting carcasses into pieces.
National Beef Packing Co suspended cattle slaughtering at a beef plant in Tama, Iowa, for a cleaning and planned to resume on April 13.
Aurora Packing Company closed a beef plant in Aurora, Illinois, said Brad Lyle, chief financial officer for U.S. commodity firm Kerns and Associates. A security officer at the plant said it was closed due to the pandemic. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Harmony Beef in Alberta, Canada, shut its cattle slaughter operations on March 27 for two days, after a worker tested positive for the new coronavirus, prompting some federal inspectors to stay away from the site.
Cargill Inc closed a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that produces meat for U.S. grocery stores.
Tyson Foods Inc shut a hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa, the week of April 6 after more than 24 cases of COVID-19 involving employees at the facility.
Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, on Sunday said it is shutting a pork plant indefinitely and warned that plant shutdowns are pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge” in meat supplies for grocers.
An Olymel pork plant in Yamachiche, Quebec, shut on March 29 for two weeks, after nine workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Maple Leaf Foods suspended operations on April 8 at its Brampton, Ontario poultry plant, following three COVID cases among workers at that facility.
Sanderson Farms Inc reduced chicken production to 1 million birds a week from 1.3 million at a plant in Moultrie, Georgia.
The United States of America has now seen 561,767 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 22,129 deaths, with hot-spots including New York, Massachusetts and Michigan
With its 561,769 cases as of the 12 April, the U.S has seen more cases than any other country in the world
The U.S has also now seen more deaths than any other country in the world, overtaking Italy and Spain