Another Big Meat Plant Shutters With U.S. on Brink of Shortages

Another huge meat plant has been closed indefinitely in the U.S., with experts saying the country is just weeks away from shortages.

Tyson Foods Inc.said Thursday it was shutting its beef facility in Pasco, Washington, while team members undergo testing for Covid-19. That’s adding to an avalanche of news that’s hit in just the past day. Tyson closed two of its key pork plants. Case counts continued to mount, including in Canada, where industry groups are saying they’ll probablyhold back some of what’s usually exported to the U.S. Meanwhile, the head of JBS SA, the world’s top meat producer,warned of shortfalls.

At least eight major U.S. meat facilities have seen halts in the space of a few weeks.

The Tyson plant in Washington produces enough beef in one day to feed four million people, according to the company. It’s one of the few facilities in the northwestern U.S., with capacity of 2,300 cattle a day. Resuming operations is dependent on a variety of factors, including the outcome of team member testing and how long it takes to get results back.

“We’re working with local health officials to bring the plant back to full operation as soon as we believe it to be safe,” Steve Stouffer, head of Tyson Fresh Meats, said in the company’s statement. “Unfortunately, the closure will mean reduced food supplies and presents problems to farmers who have no place to take their livestock. It’s a complicated situation across the supply chain.”

The Meat Number That Makes Even Naysayers Worry About Shortages

The U.S. government on Wednesday pushed out its monthly figures on frozen food inventories, which stood in sharp relief against the backdrop of closures. One figure in particular might give even the naysayers pause.

Combined pork, beef and poultry supplies in cold-storage facilities now stand equal to roughly two weeks of total American meat production. With most plant shutdowns lasting about 14 days for safety reasons, that raises the potential for deficits.

“Meat shortages will be occurring two weeks from now in the retail outlets,” Dennis Smith, a senior account executive at Archer Financial Services, said this week, citing industry sources. “There is simply no spot pork available. The big box stores will get their needs met, many others will not.”

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