Smithfield Foods’ South Dakota pork plant reopens

on May 5, 2020
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
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  • Smithfield’s pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD, reopened Monday
  • U.S. hog processing capacity still down 50%, according to Tyson
  • USDA going all out to get meatpacking plants back online

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Smithfield Foods Inc, reopened a massive pork plant at Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Monday, according to a union representing plant employees. A spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers said the plant started operating its ground seasoned pork and night cleanup departments, according to Reuters.

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The pork processing plant had shut down indefinitely about three weeks ago amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The plant is linked to 1,098 virus cases and two deaths.

Other large beef and poultry plants across the U.S. too had to suspend operations to avoid infections among workers. The closures resulted in meat shortages at retail outlets while herds of animals backed up at livestock farms in what is seen as widespread disruption of the country’s meat supply chain.

Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) said during an investor call Monday that U.S. hog processing capacity had declined by 50%.

Reopening not confirmed by Company

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However, Smithfield emailed Reuters to say that it had not commenced operations at the SD facility, which processes 5% of U.S. pork.

According to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a walk-through of the plant on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the state has opened a COVID-19 testing center for all Smithfield Foods workers and family members, even if they are asymptomatic for the virus.

AGWEEK quoted Noem to say that some Smithfield workers went back to work Monday and that the plant would return to full-scale work in 5-6 days.

Agriculture Secretary says meat plants to open sooner

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The USDA is working to implement an executive order from President Donald Trump requiring meat processing plants to stay open to avoid food shortages. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Fox News last week that idled meatpacking plants would reopen in a matter of days.

“The good news today is we’re having these plants prepared to open in days, not weeks, some maybe by the end of this week, over the weekend and others maybe early week,” Perdue said.

Perdue said in the interview that the USDA was investigating the “historic divergence” in prices between live cattle and boxed beef.

“It certainly is disturbing for cattle people who have grown these animals to see their prices going down while the prices at the store are going up,” he commented.

Panic shopping for meat

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Fox said Tuesday that fear of meat shortages had sparked panic shopping, forcing stores to raise prices and others to ration purchases by shoppers.

“People are panicking,” said Mary Bracey of Pure Pastures, an organic store selling meat from local family farms. “And they want to get as much meat as possible. I have people calling and asking for whole cows and 50 pounds of chicken – that is not what we do.”

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