Smithfield Pork, one of the United States’ largest pork processing plant, announced it would temporarily close as many plant employees are sick with COVID-19. The move puts the pork supplier in a precarious position as it will not be able to supply grocery stores.

“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 company’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement April 12. “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.”

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The plant is located in South Dakota and provides about 5% of the nation’s pork production. The plant also employs 3,700 people. The company said it planned to pay employees for the next two weeks.

While the original plan was to close the plant for three days, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem asked them to close for 14 days. Sullivan said, “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. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic.”

South Dakota officials reported that over 200 cases of COVID-19 infected plant employees. JBS SA and Tyson Foods workers reported deaths related to COVID-19. Read more about meat processing, factory farms, and why processed meat is unhealthy in One Green Planet.

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

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