Tyson Fresh Meats is closing down operations at an Iowa pork plant in response to COVID-19.
The Waterloo, Iowa-based facility is Tyson Fresh Meats’, a division of Tyson Foods, largest pork plant. Since the beginning of the public health emergency, the facility has reportedly been operating at reduced production levels. The company attributes this work reduction to “worker absenteeism.”
Work at the plant is scheduled to cease this week and will not resume until further notice. However, the 2,800 employees will be allowed to come to the facility to be tested for COVID-19.
Tyson has announced that it will continue to pay employees during the facility’s closure.
“Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we’ve implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production.
COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the meat processing industry. On April 12, Smithfield closed its Sioux Fall facility, which had hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases. According to a USA Today investigation, approximately 17 meat processing facilities had closed due to COVID-19 as of Monday, April 20.
“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” Stouffer said. “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”
On Monday, Tyson announced that it would be resuming operations at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. It had suspended operations at the plant for two weeks and will be beginning “limited operations.”