Tyson Foods Chairman says ‘food supply is breaking’

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Meat processing plants have temporarily suspended operations in the midst of the health crisis

In a full-page ad in several newspapers, Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson said his company plans to temporarily shutter U.S. plants due to health concerns after thousands of meatpacking workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

“The food supply chain is breaking,” Tyson said in the ad that ran in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday. 

Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat suppliers in the U.S., said the coronavirus outbreak will likely lead to millions of pounds of meat disappearing from the food supply due to the halt in production. Tyson, along with Smithfield and JBS, is temporarily closing U.S. facilities in the wake of the revelation that some workers contracted COVID-19. 

"There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," Tyson said, adding that "millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.” 

"In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation.”

USDA predicts price increase

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is forecasting that 2020 beef prices will rise 1-2 percent, poultry roughly 1.5 percent, and pork between 2 and 3 percent. The USDA plans to buy $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat from farmers to help drive down prices and reduce waste. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday released guidelines for meat and poultry processing workers. The CDC said it recommended providing cloth face coverings for employees, checking workers’ temperatures before they enter the facility, adding more clock-in stations, and limiting carpooling. 

Researchers have noted that COVID-19 is not a foodborne virus. However, it’s always a good idea to practice safe food handling to protect against foodborne pathogens.

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