Tyson Meats announced that it will close another plant this weekend as the nation’s food supply comes into focus amid the spread of COVID-19.
The Tyson Meats plant in Dakota City, Neb. Is the fifth Tyson plant to close. The plant provides beef for 18 million Americans a day. The plant will close from May 1 to May 4 to allow for cleaning.
The closings have been due to the spread of COVID-19 both within plants and in surrounding communities.
“Team member safety has and continues to be top priority for us and we’re grateful for our team members and their critical role in helping us fulfill, to the best of our ability, our commitment to helping feed people in our community and across the nation,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president & general manager beef enterprise, Tyson Fresh Meats.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to include meat processing plants as part of the Defense Production Act. The order absolves meat producers from being liable for outbreaks within plants. This was seen as an important step for meat producers to continue operating, and avoiding shortages in grocery stores.
“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the executive order states. “Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain.”
Smithfield Foods, which has closed three food processing plants, said the order was an important step to keep plants open.
"The company is grateful to its employees and its union representatives, who are frontline responders, for their patriotism and willingness to step up in a selfless way to keep food on tables during this global pandemic," Smithfield Foods said in a statement. "Importantly, the company believes that the executive order will provide priority assistance in securing an ongoing supply of critical PPE, as well as aid the company in securing broader COVID-19 testing for its employees."
Earlier in the week, the head of Tyson Foods issued a dire warning in an advertisement in the Washington Post.
"As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain," Chairman John Tyson wrote in a letter published Sunday. "As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed."