Tyson Foods Warns That 'Food Supply Chain Is Breaking' as Plants Close Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Tyson Foods is warning that "the food supply chain is breaking" amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a full page New York Times spread that ran Sunday, the board chairman John Tyson said that "millions of pounds of meat" will disappear from the supply chain as meat processing plants across the country are forced to close. The closures, he said, have the potential to lead to food shortages.

"As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain. As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," Tyson wrote, according to TIME. "Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation. Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking."

The concern is one echoed by other meat processors across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a memo earlier this month as it shuttered the doors at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant indefinitely, Smithfield Foods warned that there could be major disruptions in the food supply chain.

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"The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply," Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, said. "It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. 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."

The concerns come as meat processing plants have become clusters for the coronavirus. Just last week, it was reported that Sioux Falls Smithfield Foods plant was the largest cluster in the United States, with more than 700 of the plant’s 3,700 employees testing positive for the virus. As a result, many plants have been forced to temporarily close.