According to The Wall Street Journal, the spread of COVID-19 among U.S. meat-plant workers has thrown the $213 billion industry into disarray. Meat companies are trucking poultry and livestock to be processed at other plants and bringing in welders to install shields between processing-line workstations. On farms, some pigs now are being euthanized because slaughterhouses have closed, farmers said.
The latest meat plant closures include the following:
- Tyson Fresh Meats: On April 23, the company announced it would temporarily halt production at its Pasco, Wash., beef facility while team members undergo testing. The facility produces enough beef in one day to feed four million people. While the plant is temporarily closed for testing, team members will continue to be compensated and asked to self-isolate at home until results return.
- Hormel Foods: On April 24, Jennie-O Turkey Store announced that it would temporarily pause operations at its Willmar Avenue and its Benson Avenue facilities, both located in Willmar, Minn. As of April 23, 14 employees out of more than 1,200 at the two facilities had tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, on April 28, Jennie-O Turkey Store announced that it would temporarily pause operations at its Melrose facility, located in Melrose, Minn. As of April 27, 19 employees out of approximately 750 at the Melrose facility had tested positive for COVID-19. The company plans to thoroughly clean all three facilities to enhance its safety and sanitization protocols.
- Smithfield Foods: On April 24, the company announced it would proactively suspend operations at its Monmouth, Ill., facility on April 27 until further notice after a small portion of its 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19. The Monmouth plant represents approximately 3% of U.S. fresh pork supplies, and produces bacon.
- JBS USA: On April 26, the company announced the temporary closure of its Green Bay, Wis., beef production facility. The facility employs more than 1,200 people and feeds nearly 3.2 million Americans every day. The Green Bay beef facility is the fourth JBS USA plant to temporarily close in an effort to help slow community spread, joining the Souderton, Pa., beef production facility and the Greeley, Colo., beef production facility, both of which have reopened, and the Worthington, Minn., pork facility, which remains closed.
- Indiana Packers Corp: On April 28, the global pork supplier decided to temporarily suspend operations at its Delphi, Ind., facility, as part of its ongoing health-and-safety assessments. This decision was made in light of the increasing number of positive tests of COVID-19 in neighboring communities and reports that Indiana is closing in on the expected peak of infections. The temporary suspension is expected to last no longer than two weeks.