News & Politics

Major Meat Processing Plant Closes as Hundreds of Workers Contract Coronavirus

Smithfield meat packing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AlexiusHoratius at en.wikipedia / Public domain)

The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., is one of the nation’s largest. It employs about 3,700 workers and processes about 4% to 5% of the nation’s pork.

CNN reports it’s having to shut down as its workers suffer from a COVID outbreak.

The closure puts the country’s meat supply at risk, said the CEO of Smithfield, which operates the plant.

“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,” the meat processor’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement Sunday.
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he said.

South Dakota is on the low end of COVID cases, with under 500 total — but about 240 of them are among the workers at this single processing plant. The plant will shut down for two weeks after it finishes processing inventory on Tuesday. Meat processors in Iowa and Pennsylvania have already shut down to deal with COVID outbreaks among their workers, with Tyson and Cargill among the brands that have shut plants down due to COVID.