What Is Happening With The US Food Supply? Is It Breaking?

The United States food supply chain is experiencing all sorts of difficulties lately. Is it time to panic, though? If you heard the commentary that was offered up by Tyson Foods’ Chairman of the Board on Sunday, the answer is yes. According to him, the pandemic has caused the food supply chains to break down. He took out a full-page ad in various newspapers, in hopes of sounding the alarm.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” said John Tyson. The advertisement was published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Washington Post and New York Times. Since United States farmers currently do not have anywhere to sell their livestock, processing facilities are going to be closed.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” wrote board chairman John Tyson in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

US farmers don’t have anywhere to sell their livestock, he said, adding that “millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”

“There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,” Tyson wrote.

This will lead to the depopulation of numerous animals. Tyson went on to say that grocery stores would have a limited supply of his products until the issues are addressed. Tyson Foods is currently responsible for the employment of 100,000 people. In a world where pork processing plants have already closed, this news is disconcerting.

Tyson Foods has been receiving public pressure to close in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. When the Black Hawk County health department analyzed all local cases of the virus, the Tyson factory was linked to at least half of them. While the company has finally decided to cease all production, they are continuing to pay their employees.

It is great to see companies like these that are willing to do the right thing. The plant will not reopen until it has received the proper testing results. With so many COVID-19 cases that can be attributed to their practices, Tyson knew that they had no choice but to close. The ramifications of the decision are very significant, though.

The ripple effects extend well beyond the company. Grocers, truckers, distributors and farmers are all affected. Meanwhile, the Logansport, Indiana mayor is in favor of the decision to close the plant down. The action is designed to save the lives of local residents and keep the virus from having the chance to spread even further.

These are the tough decisions that need to be made right now. Unfortunately, Waterloo’s mayor believes that Tyson dragged their feet on this decision and did not give their employees a chance to remain healthy. The plant closing should be referred to as a humanitarian effort, as opposed to a business decision.

“Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, Covid-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production,” Tyson Fresh Meats group president Steve Stouffer said in a statement on the Waterloo facility.

In the meantime, The Cass County Health Department is now working with Tyson to test thousands of employees. The processing center was shut down for a 24 hour period, so that deep cleaning could take place. On the other hand, county health officials believe that employees are simply not as cautious about the spread of the virus when they are at the workplace.

We are more likely to take additional precautions in our own homes, that is for sure. Grocery stores are now bound to experience shortages when these plants’ closures affect the supply chain. Millions of pounds of meat will not be in circulation, causing people to make difficult decisions about their daily diets.

Beef and chicken production have been adversely affected by the virus as well. Maryland and Delaware have already depopulated their chicken processing plants. They do not have the employees necessary to handle the production process anymore. Reduced employee attendance is forcing a number of plants’ hands when it comes to the virus.

Pork processing plants have been hit the hardest so far. Many of the largest plants in the country are offline indefinitely. No one knows exactly when they are going to reopen and things are very uncertain at the moment. It is not the least bit alarmist to worry about what happens next. Will our food supply chains be affected to the point where we need to alter our shopping routines even more than we already have?

Companies cannot and should not be taking any liability risks that are not necessary. Processing plants can’t reopen until they are sure that their employees are all uninfected and that things will stay that way. That means that the goal line is not imminent. We are going to have to stay the course until things have gotten safer for these employees.

Empty grocery store shelves are surely going to follow but that is to be expected. We just hope that the ads that were taken out by Tyson do not lead to the same sort of panic that took place when the virus first started to gain a foothold in the United States. The last thing that we want to do is fight for meat during a shortage.