*America could face a meat shortage if more processing plants shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Smithfield, which is stationed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, and it’s shutting down temporarily after over 200 employees contracted COVID-19.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said the Smithfield employees account for more than half of the active coronavirus cases in the state. About 240 employees are sick out of roughly 430 active cases in the state. The mayor of Sioux Falls has now recommended that Smithfield suspend operations for at least two weeks.
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As you may have seen on @CBSThisMorning, we are proud to donate over 40 million servings of protein to @FeedingAmerica to help food banks respond to those in need during this critical time. This is our largest donation in company history, and a part of our Good Food Challenge. pic.twitter.com/wrlSmAJ7sK
— Smithfield Foods (@SmithfieldFoods) April 13, 2020
“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,” the meat processor’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement Sunday.
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he said. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.”
The plant will reopen following direction from officials at a local, state, and federal level.
Companies are also sending livestock to different facilities that are not impacted by the virus, and experts tell CNN that consumers don’t have to fear supermarket shortages (for now).
“There likely will be a drop in the number of types of products that are on the shelves,” said Christine McCracken, a senior analyst of animal protein for Rabobank. “It may be that a deboned product isn’t available because they don’t have the labor to do that. So boneless chicken breasts might not be an option in the coming weeks.”