One of the Largest US Pork Processing Plants Is Closing Indefinitely

April 12, 2020 Updated: April 12, 2020

One of the country’s largest pork processing plants is shutting down until further notice as employees have contracted the CCP virus, putting the U.S. meat supply at risk, according to the CEO of Smithfield, the operator.

“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,” Smithfield’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement on Sunday.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Sullivan added. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.”

The plant, which is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, accounts for between 4 percent and 5 percent of the nation’s pork production and employs some 3,700 workers, Smithfield said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem confirmed on Saturday that 238 Smithfield workers had contracted the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, accounting for more than half of the state’s total, reported KELO. The mayor of Sioux Falls and Noem both recommended that Smithfield shut down the plant for two weeks at the minimum.

Some of the products of Smithfield Foods
Some of the products of Smithfield Foods are displayed in front at a news conference on WH Group’s IPO in Hong Kong on April 14, 2014. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

“Today I am sending a joint letter with the mayor to Smithfield’s president and CEO. We recommend in that letter that Smithfield operations suspend for a minimum of 14 days as soon as possible to protect the employees, families, the Sioux Falls community and the people of South Dakota. This isolation period is consistent with what we understand as the incubation period of COVID-19,” Noem said.

Smithfield has been running its facilities to supply American consumers during the outbreak, Sullivan 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,” he added.

“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. Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever.”

According to Reuters, other poultry and meat processors including Cargill, Tyson Foods, and JBS USA have idled plants in other parts of the country.