Why Grocers Should Expect Another Run on Meat

Gina Acosta
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Why Grocers Should Expect Another Run on Meat
About 240 employees at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., tested positive for COVID-19.

The CEO of Smithfield Foods says the country is "perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply" after the shutdown of a large pork processing facility in South Dakota due to COVID-19.

Smithfield CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan says the company's Sioux Falls, S.D., facility will remain closed until further notice. 

“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," Sullivan said. "It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain."

The Sioux Falls plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., representing about 5% of U.S. pork production. It supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day, and employs 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are now ubiquitous across our country. Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” he concluded.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said during a Saturday news briefing that Smithfield employees accounted for more than half of the active coronavirus cases in the state. About 240 employees are sick, she said, out of roughly 430 active cases in the state. Because of that, she and the mayor of Sioux Falls recommended that Smithfield suspend operations for at least two weeks.

Tyson and JBS USA have also shut their doors because of sick employees.

Smithfield says it will continue to compensate its employees for the next two weeks and hopes to keep them from joining the ranks of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans across the country.

Headquartered in Smithfield, Va. since 1936, Smithfield Foods, Inc. is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. 

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