One of the Largest Pork Processing Plants to Close Indefinitely
Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced that it will shut down its Sioux Falls, SD facility Indefinitely. The facility is one of the largest pork processing plants, contributing 4-5% of the U.S. pork supply. The plant employs more than 3,700 workers, produces 130 million servings of food per week, and works with over 550 family farmers that supply the plant.
The closure is aimed at COVID-19 concerns. As of April 11th, more than 230 Smithfield Foods employees tested positive for the virus. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem stated in a press briefing that Smithfield Food employees accounted for half of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases. She and the Mayor of Sioux Falls, SD recommended Smithfield Foods cease operations for at least two weeks.
The Smithfield Foods plant is not the first to shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, resulting in worries about the U.S. meat supply. Meat processing plant giants, such as Tyson Foods in Iowa and JBS USA in Pennsylvania, have reportedly shut down as well. Kenneth M. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer at Smithfield, stated, “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. It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals.”
The shutdown will not take full effect until the current inventory is processed. Once state and federal officials have deemed it safe, Smithfield Foods will resume operations. The company also plans to compensate its employees for the next two weeks. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are now ubiquitous across our country. The virus is afflicting communities everywhere. The agriculture and food sectors have not been immune. Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” Sullivan said.
The products from the plant do not pose a risk of spread. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.