Smithfield Foods Inc. will shutter two more of its pork-processing plants later this week due to coronavirus infections at those facilities, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The announcement comes a few days after the company said it would close its Sioux Falls, S.D. plant, one of the nation’s largest, because employees at that location also tested positive for the virus.
Company officials said the Missouri facility was forced to close because it could only operate by getting pork supplies from the South Dakota plant.
“Our country is blessed with abundant livestock supplies, but our processing facilities are the bottleneck of our food chain,” Smithfield Chief Executive Kenneth Sullivan told The Journal. “For the security of our nation, I cannot understate how critical it is for our industry to continue to operate unabated.”
Concern has been mounting inside the Trump administration about the possibility of coronavirus outbreaks at U.S. meat facilities, one source told the news outlet.
The closures are expected to cut meat supplies even further for grocers and drop business for farmers.
Around the country, beef, chicken and pork plants have been closing because of workers contracting coronavirus or staying home from work out of fear of getting it.
To keep workers motivated, meat processing companies like Smithfield, Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and JBS USA Holdings Inc. have all offered bonuses while promising to promote social distancing at work.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday addressed the matter, assuring workers that their safety is valued. He also stressed the importance of following CDC safety practices to avoid spreading of coronavirus.
“I want to assure you that the American food supply is strong, resilient and safe,” Perdue said at a White House briefing alongside President Donald Trump.