meat shortage coronavirus after Smithfield pork plant closure

The coronavirus forced closure of Smithfield’s large South Dakota pork plant signals that the meat industry might be taking a hit during the pandemic. The plant has been closed for two weeks after nearly three hundred employees tested positive for the virus. This isn’t the only meat plant that has been temporarily shuttered. Now its CEO is sounding the alarm that the meat industry is almost at its breaking point. 

Smithfield Foods Becomes Coronavirus “Hot Spot”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken asked Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, to close its mammoth Sioux Falls plant after 293 workers received positive diagnoses.

The plant was first declared a “hot spot” for infections back on April 10. At that time, it was deemed the 4th worst hot spot in the country.

However, Smithfield did not move to shutter plant operations until its infected worker count skyrocketed from 190 to 293.

The state has 730 residents with confirmed cases of coronavirus, so Smithfield accounts for a large chunk of the entire state’s infected. 

The Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls is a massive operation, employing about 3,700 people and produces about 18 million servings of pork per day. Officials want the pork plant to be sanitized and workers to self-isolate. 

Shuttering it for fourteen days will have a substantial impact on farmers and consumers looking for pork in America’s grocery stores.

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Closure Of Plants Could Lead To Meat Shortages

While grocery stores have remained open during the pandemic, some have had issues with keeping inventory well stocked.

The temporary closures of these large meat plants could exacerbate that situation.

“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,” Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in an issued statement about the closure.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Sullivan continued. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.” 

Multiple meat plants across the US have closed.

A Tyson Foods facility in Columbus Junction, Iowa also temporarily closed after a couple dozen workers fell ill with coronavirus.

JBS USA has temporarily closed two locations because of high absenteeism among employees.

Cargill Foods has also had to shutter at least one location for a while.

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Social Distancing At Work

Some workers at the plants claim it is impossible to practice social distancing at work, likely cause the plants to become hot spots. Some are working “shoulder to shoulder.”

As the coronavirus pandemic drags out, this could cause some serious shortages at your local grocery store.

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