JBS reopens U.S. pork plant to put down pigs, dispose of carcasses, not produce meat

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CHICAGO, April 29 (Reuters) – Meat producer JBS said on Wednesday it was reopening a Minnesota pork plant shuttered by the pandemic to euthanize up to 13,000 pigs a day for farmers, not to produce meat for consumers.

U.S. farmers have been forced to cull livestock as they run short of space to house animals after some of the largest U.S. slaughterhouses closed due to outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers.

JBS said it will need only 10 to 20 employees of the 2,000 workers at its Worthington, Minnesota, plant to manage the “humane euthanasia” of pigs, reducing the risk for the virus to spread. Hog carcasses will be rendered, sent to landfills, composted or buried, JBS said.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to mandate meat plants continue to function during the pandemic after warnings of looming shortages.

“Recent U.S. pork plant closures and reduced production levels at pork processing facilities across the country have left American producers with few options,” JBS USA said in a statement. “Humane depopulation and proper disposal is the unfortunate last resort for some producers.”

The JBS Worthington plant stopped operations on April 20 to curb the spread of coronavirus. It processed 20,000 hogs per day.

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