US pork production capacity halved due to COVID-19 – Tyson boss

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Approximately half of US pork processing capacity has been shut down during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the president of US meat giant Tyson Foods.

Industry representatives have warned that millions of pigs cannot enter supply and called for a co-ordinated euthanasia programme as stocks build-up on farms.

Tyson has been forced to close a number of pork plants, including two in Iowa and one in Indiana, which it is now planning to re-open. It has also shut some major beef plants.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer, has been even harder hit, shutting numerous plants across the country, including the massive Sioux Falls plant, which accounts for approximately 5% of US pork production.

Sioux Falls, closed after hundreds of workers tested positive for the virus, has now resumed ‘limited operations’ after being shut for around three weeks, according to the Business Times. Smithfield, owned by China’s WH Group, reopened the plant’s ground seasoned pork and night clean-up departments with about 250 of the plant’s 3,700 workers returning, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers said.

The company plans to gradually restart more operations, but has not resumed slaughtering pigs, according to the union. Smithfield has made coronavirus testing optional for employees to go back to work, South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdony said.

Other major meat companies, including JBS, have also shut pork plants and the US Center for Disease Control has reported that 19 states have recorded COVID-19 cases in 115 meat and poultry processing facilities. Among around 130,000 workers at the facilities, there have been about 5,000 confirmed cases and 20 deaths, the Business Time reported.

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