Smithfield Foods, which is one of the largest producers of meat in the United States, just issued a warning about the food supply in this country that is nothing short of terrifying.
The company announced yesterday that they are closing their plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which had employed over approximately 3,700 people, according to the Associated Press, 300 of which tested positive for COVID-19. This plant had been one of the biggest pork processing centers in the nation, producing 18 million servings of food per day.
In announcing the closure, Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan explained that coronavirus is having a devastating impact on the U.S. food supply chain. “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,” Sullivan warned ominously. “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.”
Sullivan later added that the plant had stayed open throughout the coronavirus pandemic because they wanted to do their part in helping to feed America. “We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever,” he said. “We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19.”
The closure came a day after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wrote a letter to Smithfield calling on them to cease operations for 14 days so that its workers could self-isolate and the plant could undergo a disinfecting process.
“Obviously, the situation is dynamic and changing by the day. The industry (like the country) needs to fight its way through this situation –and it will– and make adjustments as it changes. As a critical infrastructure industry in our nation’s food supply, the Governor is committed to working with them to get through this,” wrote Maggie Seidel, Noem’s senior adviser and policy director.
There will reportedly still be some activity at the Smithfield plant on Tuesday, when products that are already in inventory will be processed. The company has also promised to pay all their employees for the next two weeks.
Smithfield foods isn’t the only brand who has had to close meat processing plants amidst the pandemic, as a Tyson Foods facility in Columbus Junction, Iowa also closed after two dozen employees tested positive. Smithfield is set to begin operations again, once health officials give them the okay.
This pandemic has been incredibly impacting to so many industries in a variety of different ways. All we can do now is pray that this pandemic ends soon, and our nation is able to adjust as best possible.