After having shuttered a South Dakota pork processing plant because of a Covid-q19 coronavirus outbreak among its employees, Smithfield Foods now is closing two more plants, is Wisconsin and Missouri.
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "Smithfield said that employees at all three plants have tested positive for the coronavirus and that the Missouri plant needed pork supplies from the South Dakota facility to operate."
Some context from the story:
"Since the start of the month, beef, chicken and pork plants have closed across the country after hundreds of workers contracted the coronavirus and hundreds more stayed at home for fear of catching it. The close quarters on meat-processing lines have made some meat plants Covid-19 hot spots.
"Companies such as Smithfield, Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and JBS USA Holdings Inc. have offered bonus pay to workers, while trying to distance employees with staggered breaks and shift-start times. In some cases meatpackers have placed barriers between line workers. Unions and worker-advocacy groups have called on meat companies to do more."
While there have been some concerns raised about food shortages, "meat industry officials have said that supplies overall remain robust and that meat stockpiles were large before the U.S. coronavirus outbreak," the Journal writes. "Restaurant dining room closures across the country mean that large quantities of ground beef and chicken breasts destined for food service are now sitting in storage and in some cases are being repurposed for supermarkets."
However, Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan has suggested vigilance: "“Our country is blessed with abundant livestock supplies, but our processing facilities are the bottleneck of our food chain … For the security of our nation, I cannot understate how critical it is for our industry to continue to operate unabated.”
The Journal reports that "Sullivan warned that the meat-plant closures are creating a domino effect in the food industry that lays bare the interconnected nature of the U.S. agricultural system. As meat plants close, production of chicken, beef and pork is declining and farmers are left with nowhere to send slaughter-ready livestock."
Smithfield is owned by Hong Kong-based meat conglomerate WH Group.