Coronavirus: ‘Food supply chain is breaking’

28 April 2020

Factory closures in the US will lead to millions of pounds of meat disappearing from the supply chain and shortages in grocery stores, Tyson Foods has warned. 

John Tyson, the meat producer’s board chairman, said the food supply chain in the US is “vulnerable” as meat production facilities close their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain. As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,” he said. 

Tyson closed or reduced production at several of its factories across the US, including its pork plant in Iowa earlier this month after more than two dozen cases of Covid-19 were identified among workers. 

It warned closed facilities posed a “serious food waste issue” in addition to meat shortages.

“Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation. Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking,” said Tyson.

The firm highlighted measures it was taking to protect the health and wellbeing of its employees including taking worker temperatures, securing a supply of face coverings, additional daily deep cleaning and social distancing measures. 

Tyson called on government bodies, the public sector and the private sector to unite to allow factory employees to return to work safely. 

“We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America.”

Tyson’s warning comes after earlier this month another meat producer, Smithfield Foods, said the US was “perilously close to the edge in terms of meat supply”.

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