One of the leading pork processing plants in the United States has warned that a meat shortage is “perilously close” due to factory closures necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a release published on the website of Smithfield Foods, the meat plant — located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — will close down “until further notice.” Before the pandemic, Smithfield Foods was credited for supplying around 130 million servings of food per week and comprising between four and five percent of all pork production in the United States.
However, the spread of the coronavirus has shuttered the plant due to employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, explained Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield.
Sullivan claimed that the closure of Smithfield and other food processing plants 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.”
The CEO continued with a dire warning about the frightening possibility of broken food chains leading to a potential food shortage.
“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,” Sullivan added.
“The virus is afflicting communities everywhere. The agriculture and food sectors have not been immune,” he continued.
Sullivan claimed that Smithfield had previously continued to operate despite the crisis due to an “obligation” to sustain the nation’s food supply. However, he added that the industry needed more support and direction from local, state and federal officials.
“We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” he concluded.
The closure of Smithfield Foods does not only have consequences for the food industry. The plant is a large source of employment in the region, providing 3,700 jobs in addition to contracts with over 550 independent family farmers.
Though the company has committed to paying its employees their salaries for the next two weeks, it is unsure of the future beyond then. It is very possible that plant workers will join the over 10 million Americans that have been forced to file for unemployment since the pandemic hit, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.
Meat has not been the only food industry to have suffered consequences from the coronavirus crisis. Per CBS, dairy farmers have been forced to dump milk as schools and restaurants have closed down, severely decreasing demand.
The Food and Drug Administration has claimed that there is no evidence that food or food packaging has been associated with the transmission of COVID-19.