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These Meat Processing Plants Won't Close Again, CEO Claims

Preventive measures put in place at major plants will help prevent a second wave of shutdowns.
ground pork

At the beginning of the pandemic, several large food processing plants had various workers test positive for coronavirus, which led to immediate shutdowns. Many of the factories that had to halt operations for roughly two weeks to deep clean and allow employees to recover were meat processing plants. However, a top industry executive believes that future closures due to COVID-19 are unlikely to happen again thanks to new industry-wide protocols set in place.

Andre Nogueira, CEO of major beef and pork producer JBS USA, says that producers at meat processing plants have been taking protective measures to avoid another major shutdown, according to The Wall Street Journal. These steps include taking workers' temperature and supplying them with enough proper safety gear. (Related: This Is the Only One Way to Contract COVID-19 at the Grocery Store)

"With all the protocol that was put in place…early in March and continued to evolve, I think that we're in pretty good shape," Nogueira said at The Wall Street Journal's Global Food Forum. "We do not control the disease outside of the plant, but I'm pretty confident that we're not going to have the size of the disruption that we saw in April and May."

The first wave of shutdowns for large meat producers, such as Tyson Foods, Inc., Hormel Foods Corp., and Cargill, is largely what caused the temporary meat shortage the nation faced in the spring. Most companies gave employees paid time off during the closures, but the industry as a whole still suffered.

Another precaution JBS, which supplies meat to popular brands like Smithfield Foods and National Beef, is enforcing in its processing plants is conducting "surveillance tests" among workers. These tests help monitor for any signs that would indicate infections could be spreading among employees. Evidently, these preventive measures have proven to be successful thus far.

"The number of positives over the last two or three months in the plants has been pretty low," Mr. Nogueira said. However, if cases were to surge in the community neighboring one of JBS' respective plants, the company would shut down the site accordingly.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more