Two of America’s largest beef packing companies have announced plant closings due to COVID-19. The two plants have a combined harvest capacity of 6,500 cattle per day.
JBS USA announced Monday it will shutter its Greeley, Colo. beef facility through April 24 following an outbreak of COVID-19 among its 6,000 plant employees and the community. National Beef Packing Co. announced Saturday it will close its Tama, Iowa, facility until April 20.
The Greeley facility, which has a 5,400-head per day harvest capacity, will wind down over the next two days with a diminished staff to ensure existing product in the plant can be utilized, the company said in a statement. United Food and Commercial Workers union officials reported at least 50 people employed at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19, and two employees died last week from complications with the virus.
At a news briefing on Monday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said officials intend to bring “this critical part of our national infrastructure on line sooner rather than later.” Polis emphasized, “There’s no evidence at all that there’s any risk to consumers. It’s an issue within the plant.”
National Beef closed its Iowa Premium plant in Tama after several employees became infected with the virus. It became the second Iowa meat processing plant to suspend operations after Tyson Foods idled its Columbus Junction pork plant.
Kansas City-based National Beef purchased the Tama plant last year where it emplolyes about 850 employees.
Closure of the Greeley facility became the second JBS USA plant to close temporarily, joining the Souderton, Pennsylvania, beef production facility. The company has also experienced increased absenteeism in a few other plants, but continues to operate the majority of its facilities across the country at or near capacity.
“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” said Andre Nogueira, chief executive officer of JBS USA.
In a statement issued by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Monday, CEO Colin Woodall said, “The closure of packing plants during this crisis will have an impact on cattle and beef prices. Plant closures or slow-downs have significant regional and national implications that will ripple through the marketplace at a time when cattle producers are already suffering from market uncertainty and economic hardship. Every member of the beef supply chain relies on processing plants operating daily to keep product moving. America’s cattlemen and cattlewomen are hopeful that any beef processing plants which have been slowed or closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak return to full operation as quickly as possible.”