By Lydia Mulvany
Major U.S. meat plants are starting to take more drastic measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, fanning concerns of supply disruptions at a time when Americans are stocking up on food.
On Monday, Tyson Foods Inc. said it halted pork processing at a plant in Iowa after more than two dozen workers tested positive for Covid-19. JBS SA suspended operations until April 16 at a beef plant in Pennsylvania after several managers showed symptoms. Other producers have seen everything from walkouts to hundreds of staff quarantined.
The temporary shutdowns come as the virus spreads to rural areas that are the heart of U.S. food production. In the early stages of the outbreak, producers opted to keep plants running when workers got sick by identifying specific areas where infected people had direct contact.
Tyson’s meat and poultry plants are experiencing “varying levels” of impact to production, the company said in a statement. More workers are failing to show up to shifts, and additional sanitation efforts to keep people safe are spurring temporary closures, Chief Executive Officer Noel White said.
In the case of the Iowa plant, hogs are being sent to other pork facilities in the region to minimize disruption.
Meanwhile, Tyson is asking federal agencies for more personal protective equipment for its workers and trying to secure supplies of face coverings, White said.
“We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country,” he said.