Tyson Foods warns that “the food supply chain is breaking’ as plants close


"The food supply chain is breaking," wrote Chairman John Tyson in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

American farmers have no place to sell their livestock, he said, adding that "millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated due to the closure of our processing plants."

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"There will be limited offerings of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities which are currently closed," Tyson wrote.

Tyson Foods, which employs about 100,000 workers, closed pork in Waterloo, Iowa and Logansport, Indiana, last week, so workers in these facilities could be tested for the virus.

The closure of the Waterloo plant came after several weeks of public pressure. Production had already slowed down because many of the 2,800 workers had called in sick, and local health authorities linked the Tyson plant to 182 cases – nearly half of the county's total.

CNN recently spoke to three employees who work in the facility who expressed ongoing concern that not enough was being done to protect them from Covid-19. One worker said it was virtually impossible to practice social distance inside the facility.

Asked by CNN about these allegations, Tyson Foods said plants were disinfected daily. And Chairman Tyson wrote in Sunday's announcement that the company has taken steps to protect its workers, including taking the temperature and demanding face masks in all its facilities. He added that the company pays out bonuses to frontline workers and truckers, as well as donating food to local communities.

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Some of the country's largest slaughterhouses (processing plants or slaughterhouses) have been forced to temporarily suspend operations after thousands of employees across the country have tested positive for the virus.

Pork processing facilities have been hit hard, with three of the largest in the United States going offline indefinitely— Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota; and the Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa. In total, the three plants account for about 15% of pork production.

– Dianne Gallagher, Pamela Kirkland and Chauncey Alcorn contributed to this report.

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