Tyson Foods Inc. announced on Wednesday that it will shut down its largest pork processing plant in Iowa this week due to an outbreak at the facility that has caused many workers to stay at home. “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,” said Chief Executive Steve Stouffer. “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.” Two employees at the Waterloo pork processing plant have died of coronavirus complications and at least 148 others tested positive. Tyson said that all 2,800 workers at the location will be offered coronavirus testing this week.
Tyson’s plant shutdown follows the decisions of two other major meat companies, Smithfield and JBS, to shut down facilities due to outbreaks among workers. “If this goes on for a long time, there is a reality of a shortage,” Joshua Specht, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, told Des Moines Register. “The politics of this could play out that they reopen at enormous risks to workers, rather than face an actual shortage… I wouldn’t bet against that.”