Tyson Foods chair says ‘the food supply chain is breaking’
Tyson Foods ran a full-page ad this weekend to alert Americans to a problem with the nation’s food supply chain and to explain the steps it is taking to help fix it.
The ad, which was published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The New York Times and Washington Post, included a letter from company chairman John Tyson. It warned Americans that the temporary closures of beef, chicken and pork processing plants around the country would mean lower supplies of meat in grocery stores.
“The food supply chain is breaking,” wrote Mr. Tyson.
Tyson closed its pork plants in Waterloo, IA, and Logansport, IN, so that workers in those facilities could be tested for COVID-19. The brand’s ad also listed sanitization procedures and other steps it is taking to protect workers.
The plant in Waterloo, in particular, had come under increasing public scrutiny as employees complained about unsafe working conditions. Nearly half of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Black Hawk County, where the Tyson plant is located, were tied to the facility.
Earlier this month, Smithfield Foods closed its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD, and JBS closed its pork facility in Worthington, MN. Those two plants, along with Tyson’s Waterloo facility, account for about 15 percent of pork production in the U.S.
Dennis Smith, a commodity broker/livestock analyst with Archer Financial Services, told NBC News that overall meat production is down about 25 percent. He estimated that “shortages will begin developing at retail meat counters” around May 1.
Terry Reilly, a senior commodity analyst at Futures International, acknowledged that fresh meat shortages were a concern in the short-term, but that alternative sources existed to help offset any shortfall.
“There is a lot of frozen pork and beef sitting in freezers, so people shouldn’t panic,” he told NBC. “In San Diego, they’re trying to figure out where to store all the fish that they would normally be serving the tourists.”
The news of meat shortages has been good news for at least one plant-based alternative brand. The stock price of Beyond Meat was up 41 percent last week, its biggest jump since going public last year, Bloomberg reports.
Beyond Meat has taken a revenue hit with the coronavirus outbreak as orders from foodservice and restaurants have declined. Its recent stock price gains are attributed to a deal for the brand to supply Starbucks in China and concerns about meat supplies in the U.S.
- Tyson ad – The Washington Post
- ‘The food supply chain is breaking,’ Tyson says as plants close – CNN
- Groceries could see meat shortages by end of week amid plant closings – NBC News
- Meat processing plants across the US are closing due to the pandemic. Will consumers feel the impact? – CNN
- Outbreak at JBS pork plant triggers another meat industry closure – The Washington Post
- Stopping virus a huge challenge at crowded US meat plants – The Associated Press
- Beyond Meat stock price soars amid fear of a coronavirus beef and pork shortage – Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are you concerned about the nation’s food supply chain — and fresh meat, in particular? How should food retailers deal with any shortages they may encounter?