Smithfield Foods has closed its Sioux Falls, SD facility until further notice.
The plant, which is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S. and represents 4-5% of U.S. pork production, employs 3,700 people.
According to the South Dakota Department of Health, 293 people who work at Smithfield Foods have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 12. The company initially intended to close the plant for three days for deep cleaning, but it ultimately decided to shutter it indefinitely.
There is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Kenneth M. Sullivan, Smithfield president and CEO, said the closure, combined with other similar protein plant closures, is pushing the U.S. “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he said. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals.”
More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant.
Added Sullivan: “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. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19.”
Smithfield, which is headquartered in Smithfield, Va., will resume operations in Sioux Falls once further direction is received from local, state and federal officials. Employees will be compensated for the next two weeks.
The company employs about 40,000 associates in the U.S.
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