(RightWing.org) – The chairman of Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat processor, has warned that the food supply chain that keeps us all fed is starting to collapse under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic. John H. Tyson wrote in Sunday’s major newspapers that the chain is “vulnerable,” and both meat shortages and waste are becoming serious problems.
Most of America’s meat comes from a handful of big processors, and Tyson Foods is among the top tier. These companies are experts at producing and distributing huge quantities of meat – but even their capabilities are slowly failing under the strain of the Wuhan coronavirus.
- Chairman John Tyson published an open letter in the New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday, explaining how his company is handling the pandemic, but warning that there are troubles ahead.
- Tyson wrote that while the company is working to maintain capacity as much as it can, there have been temporary closures at several plants caused by the disease. Both staff shortages and outbreaks in the plants themselves have caused these closures.
- He explained how the company is trying to protect staff from infection using distancing and new technology but said vulnerabilities remain. Reduced capacity means that many Tyson products are already in short supply.
- President Trump has declared meat-processing plants to be critical infrastructure and plans to use the Defense Production Act to ensure they stay open. However, while this would prevent owners from closing the plants for business reasons, it’s no guarantee that they won’t be shut down by the disease itself. To give some extra protection, the Act allows the federal government to supply plants with extra protective equipment.
- The president is concerned that up to 80% of US meat-processing capacity could be closed down. There has already been considerable waste as farmers are left scrambling by closed plants. Milk and eggs have been dumped; some fruit and vegetable crops are going unpicked as labor shortages hit.
- The largest meatpackers’ union says that, so far, at least 6,500 meat workers have been either infected or forced to self-quarantine. Pork processing capacity is down by 25% and beef by 10%. It’s possible the country could be facing shortages of fresh meat within weeks – and we only have two weeks of reserves.
Trump and companies like Tyson are working hard to preserve our food supplies, but this isn’t an easy battle – and reverses are likely. Nobody is going to escape the effects of the pandemic.
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