US meat tycoon warns food supply is at risk of breaking

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A Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Emporia, Kansas.
Camera IconA Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Emporia, Kansas. Credit: Charlie Riedel/AP

One of America’s meat industry tycoons has warned COVID-19 is straining global protein availability declaring: “the food supply chain is breaking”, after several US processing plants were shut down.

In a full-page advertisement in The New York Times last week, Tyson Foods chairman John Tyson said the coronavirus had created a delicate balance between feeding the nation and keeping employees healthy.

Mr Tyson’s message was blunt.

“Millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities,” he said. “The food supply chain is breaking.”

The advert came as the pandemic prompted Tyson Foods, and fellow processors JBS USA and Smithfield Foods, to temporarily cease operations at pork, beef and poultry processing plants across the US.

The closures include Tyson shutting down its major pork processing plant at Waterloo in Iowa in the wake of several employees testing positive for COVID-19.

As of last week, there were 4135 reported positive COVID-19 cases linked to US meat packing facilities across 75 plants in 25 states.

Mr Tyson said the US meat processing sector was facing unprecedented challenges amid the coronavirus crisis.

“In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we’re being forced to shutter our doors,” he said.

“This means one thing — the food supply chain is vulnerable. As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to re-open our facilities.”

Tyson Foods is an American multinational corporation based in Springdale, Arkansas.

It’s the world’s second-biggest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork after JBS and it also exports annually the biggest percentage of beef.

Mr Tyson said the processing plant closures were placing America’s livestock producers under added pressure.

“Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation,” he said.

“Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America.

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