Tyson warns more meat plant closures are coming

Tyson warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year.

Posted: May 4, 2020 5:34 PM
Updated: May 4, 2020 5:39 PM

Tyson warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year.

The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety," the company said in a statement discussing financial results from the first three months of this year.

"We will not hesitate to idle any plant for deep cleaning when the need arises," CEO Noel White added during an analyst call Monday.

The meat processor has shuttered a number of plants in recent weeks as workers fall ill with Covid-19. It's warned that if the closures continue, America's food supply will suffer.

"There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," Board chairman John Tyson warned in a full-page ad that appeared recently in newspapers across the country.

The Trump administration wants plants to reopen

In an executive order signed last week, the president gave Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue the power to invoke the Defense Production Act to force companies to keep their plants open. The order, however, has not led to a widespread reopening of meat production plants.

In a statement responding to the directive, Smithfield lauded the decision but noted that it is "evaluating next steps to open its currently shuttered facilities and will make announcements when it is ready to resume operations in each location."

The day after the president signed the order, JBS USA announced it would partially reopen its pork production facility in Worthington, Minnesota — but only to euthanize hogs that won't be processed because of bottlenecks in the supply chain.

"While our focus is on getting the Worthington facility back to work on behalf of our team members producing food for the nation, we believe we have a responsibility to step up when our producer partners are in need," Bob Krebs, President of JBS USA Pork, said in a statement. "None of us want to euthanize hogs, but our producers are facing a terrible, unprecedented situation."

The National Pork Producers Council also praised the order but acknowledged that hogs will still go to waste.

"While getting pork packing plants back online is foundational, the tragic reality is that millions of hogs can't enter the food supply," the council said in a statement, adding "we need coordinated partnership between the industry and federal, state and local authorities to euthanize pigs."

The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, according to the company.

The challenge for Tyson: While meat processing plants have ground to a stop, consumer demand for meat is up.

Tyson reported selling 2.7% more more beef by volume in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2019. Pork sales popped 2% by volume, while chicken sales fell 1.5%, partially because of restaurant closures due to the pandemic.

Overall, retail sales are up about 30% to 40%, White estimated. In food service, he added, sales have fallen about 25% to 30%.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 663511

Reported Deaths: 12633
CountyCasesDeaths
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Lake48510882
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Tippecanoe20096203
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Grant6437157
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Morgan6103125
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Marshall5432105
Henry542593
Noble510178
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 972605

Reported Deaths: 16750
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1123671214
Cuyahoga961861832
Hamilton735721034
Montgomery47359903
Summit40384802
Butler35577505
Lucas35489685
Stark29456803
Warren22464271
Lorain22068414
Mahoning19509537
Lake18445318
Clermont18425201
Delaware16499116
Licking15022189
Fairfield14563180
Trumbull14369413
Greene13595218
Medina13423226
Clark12288248
Wood11575163
Portage11050164
Allen10793216
Richland10316183
Miami10035189
Muskingum8195112
Columbiana8151200
Pickaway8067107
Tuscarawas8054227
Marion7996125
Wayne7886193
Erie6914140
Ross6152128
Geauga6083136
Hancock6006116
Ashtabula5978152
Scioto596280
Lawrence527118
Union513537
Darke5036114
Belmont496659
Huron4825107
Jefferson4806107
Sandusky4780108
Seneca4702107
Washington465791
Athens465047
Mercer458780
Auglaize456180
Shelby441679
Knox4037101
Putnam399390
Madison393553
Fulton380658
Ashland380581
Defiance372583
Brown369844
Crawford358396
Logan355772
Preble353678
Clinton340852
Highland328349
Ottawa324369
Williams302662
Jackson290545
Champaign288149
Guernsey287844
Perry269847
Fayette269141
Morrow260334
Henry246658
Hardin245858
Holmes243293
Coshocton237454
Van Wert229854
Gallia222631
Adams217036
Pike215626
Wyandot210447
Hocking194554
Carroll181341
Paulding160530
Meigs135730
Noble129233
Monroe117027
Morgan101119
Harrison100624
Vinton76613
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