Tyson Fresh Meats plans to indefinitely suspend operations at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant this week due to the coronavirus.
The facility, the company’s largest pork plant, has been running at reduced levels of production due to worker absenteeism, and will stop production mid-week until further notice. The facility’s 2,800 team members will be invited to come to the plant later this week for COVID-19 testing.
“Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we’ve implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production.
“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” Stouffer said. “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”
Affected Waterloo team members will continue to be compensated while the plant is closed. The timing of resumption of operations will depend on a variety of factors, including the outcome of team member testing for COVID-19.
While the Waterloo company has suspended operation, Tyson also announced it will resume limited operations at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after being idle for two weeks due to COVID-19 concerns.
Tyson Foods formed a coronavirus task force in January and has implemented numerous measures to protect workers. It was one of the first food companies to start taking worker temperatures and is in the process of installing more than 150 infrared temperature scanners in its facilities.
The Columbus Junction pork plant, which produces fresh, boxed pork for shipment to foodservice and retail customers around the world, is an important market outlet to hundreds of independent pig farmers in the region.