The JBS Souderton, Pennsylvania beef processing plant became the first U.S. plant to have altered production due to the spreading COVID-19 virus. The company announced March 30 that it is temporarily reducing production after several senior management team members have displayed flu-like symptoms. Prior to the reduction, the plant was processing 2,200 head per day.
“Out of an abundance of caution, these team members have been sent home to self-monitor their health in light of the continued spread of coronavirus (COVID-19),” JBS spokesperson Cameron Bruett stated.
The facility is expected to return to normal operations on April 14, 2020, the company said.
“We wish our team members a speedy recovery and salute the health care professionals who are tirelessly working to protect us all. We also thank our team members and everyone who is helping to keep food on tables during this challenging time.”
Sanderson Farms, Foster Farms, and Perdue Farms have all had a small number of employees test positive for COVID-19 but so far, no plants have been shut down.
In Canada, Olymel announced March 29 the temporary closure of the hog slaughter and cutting plant in Yamachiche for a period of 14 days due to the growing number of cases of COVID-19 among plant employees, which has reached nine. Harmony Beef, an Alberta packing plant, had to halt cattle slaughter last Friday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pulled its inspectors due to a plant employee testing positive for COVID-19. The union representing the federal meat inspectors said inspectors would only return if Harmony could assure CFIA that the plant is safe for operation. CFIA told Feedstuffs it worked with Alberta Health Services and the company over the weekend to prepare for the resumption of slaughter inspection and operations were resumed on March 31, 2020.