Coronavirus prompts additional Tyson Foods plant closures

Multiple Tyson facilities are battling COVID-19 complications

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As concern for the American food supply chain grows amid the coronavirus pandemic, Tyson Foods Inc. has had to shut down multiple meatpacking operations throughout the country.

The company closed its Waterloo, Iowa, facility indefinitely Wednesday, which also happens to be its largest pork plant. This news comes a week after two Tyson plant workers were confirmed dead by local authorities in relation to the virus. The state of Georgia also reported two coronavirus deaths of Tyson plant employees.

TYSON FOODS TO INDEFINITELY SUSPEND OPERATIONS AT LARGEST PORK PLANT

“Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we’ve implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, in a recent press release. “Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production.”

More than a dozen Iowa elected officials asked Tyson to close the pork processing plant because of the spread of the coronavirus among its workforce of nearly 3,000 people. (Jeff Reinitz/The Courier via AP)

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TSNTYSON FOODS INC.59.85-2.18-3.51%

TYSON FOODS EMPLOYEES DEAD OF CORONAVIRUS IN GEORGIA

Tyson plants in Middle Tennessee are experiencing coronavirus outbreaks as well. In Goodlettsville, there have been approximately 120 confirmed infections, according to a report from FOX affiliate WZTV. Additionally, a cluster of coronavirus cases has been discovered by Metro Health officials at the Shelbyville location.

A Tyson pork processing plant in Logansport, Indiana, is preparing to close its doors for 14 days after the Cass County commissioners voted to shut it down. Testing and contact tracing will occur during the closure, according to affiliate FOX 59.

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“Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc., announced today that its Logansport, Ind., facility will voluntarily close while its more than 2,200 team members undergo testing," the company wrote in a joint statement with the county health department. "The company is working closely with the Cass County Health Department to conduct COVID-19 testing beginning as early as tomorrow. The pork processing facility, which produces three million pounds of pork daily and helps support more than 250 independent family farmers from across nine states, suspended production for one day on April 20 for additional deep cleaning and sanitizing. Since then, the facility has been running at limited production and is expected to stop production on or before Saturday, April 25.”

In recent weeks, concern has grown over a potential meat shortage in the U.S., and that sentiment has heightened as more meat plants have been forced to shut down.

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The Smithfield Foods Inc. logo is displayed on boxes at the company's pork processing facility in Milan, Missouri, April 12, 2017. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Smithfield Foods, the largest pork processor in the nation, closed its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after hundreds of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus. The company’s president and CEO, Kenneth Sullivan, warned of “severe, perhaps disastrous” consequences from the closure seeing as the one plant accounts for “4 to 5 percent” of the country’s pork production.

“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 in a press release earlier this month.

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