Tyson Foods Will Shut US Pork Plant as More Workers Catch COVID-19

by FDeditor

A woman shops in the chicken and meat section at a grocery store, April 28, 2020 Washington, DC. Meat industry experts say that beef, chicken and pork could become scarce in the United States because many meat processing plants have been temporarily closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tyson Foods took out a full page advertisement over the weekend in several major American newspapers, warning that the food supply chain is on the cusp of breaking. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Reuters

CHICAGO—Tyson Foods Inc said on Thursday it will temporarily close an Iowa pork plant due to the CCP virus pandemic, a month after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered slaughterhouses to stay open to protect the country’s food supply.

Meat processors like Tyson Foods, WH Group’s, Smithfield Foods, and JBS USA temporarily closed about 20 slaughterhouses last month as workers fell ill from to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, leading to shortages of certain products in grocery stores. Production remains lower than normal because of increased absenteeism and social distancing among employees.

An Iowa state official said 555 employees at Tyson’s Storm Lake plant tested positive for the virus, about 22 percent of the workforce.

Tyson will stop slaughtering hogs at the facility and finish processing the animals over the next two days, according to a statement.

It will resume operations next week following “additional deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire facility,” the statement said. The closure is due partly to a delay in COVID-19 testing results and employee absences, according to Tyson.

Tyson said it conducted large-scale COVID-19 testing at the plant in northwestern Iowa and implemented safety measures to protect employees like requiring them to wear masks.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union called on the Trump administration and meat companies to do more to protect workers. The union reported more than 3,000 infections and 44 deaths among U.S. meatpacking workers, up from 35 deaths as of May 12.

“Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” said Nick Nemec, a South Dakota farmer who is part of an advocacy group working with the union.

The Storm Lake plant slaughters about 17,250 pigs a day when it is running at full capacity, according to industry data. That accounted for about 3.5 percent of U.S. production before the pandemic.

By Tom Polansek

NTD staff contributed to this report.

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