meatpacking plants

An investigation by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica found that despite years of warnings about the possibility of a pandemic, meatpackers didn’t heed guidance on how to prepare.

The report says infectious disease experts and emergency planners had modeled what might happen with the arrival of a highly contagious virus, including how an outbreak might create food shortages and plant closures.

And those experts repeatedly urged companies and government agencies to prepare.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — In mid-May, Finney County’s top public health physician sent an email to state health officials repeating worries she’d made clear a month earlier to her local colleagues.

Finney County Health Department Medical Director Lindsay Byrnes warned that the coronavirus outbreak at the local meatpacking plant continued to put workers there, and the surrounding community, at risk.

Missouri and Oklahoma are both trying to help reduce the supply chain problems in the meat industry seen during the coronavirus pandemic by directing federal grant dollars to meatpacking plants.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants led to shortages and higher prices.

“During COVID-19, our food supply was tested from farm to fork. Farmers and ranchers saw tight livestock supplies on their farms, while consumers saw their choices of certain cuts of meat shrink or go away,” said Chris Chinn, Director of the MIssouri Department of Agriculture.

Criminal indictments were announced against four executives at two of the largest poultry processing companies in the country last week. Friday, Jayson Penn the CEO of Pilgrim's Pride pleaded not guilty to the price-fixing charges. The same day the Justice Department issued subpoenas against the four largest beef processing and meat packing outfits.

Nebraska’s largest COVID-19 hotspots are meatpacking areas with deep immigrant roots.

Visit almost any grocery store and you'll see how that food chain has been disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic. Even if food is in stores, millions of newly unemployed people may have trouble paying.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been talking up part of the federal response: a $3 billion plan to distribute food to families, called the Farmers to Family Food Box Program.

City of Amarillo

An alarmingly high number of COVID-19 cases are being identified at a meatpacking plant in Amarillo, as test results continue to come in.

During Wednesday’s live video briefing from the City of Amarillo, Casie Stoughton, director of public health, said 155 positive COVID-19 cases were identified from last week’s Texas National Guard testing at the Tyson Food plant.

“Today’s report card will reflect an additional 255 positive test results,” Stoughton said.

Third generation hog farmer Chad Leman, making his daily rounds, points to dozens of 300-pound pigs.

"These pigs should be gone," he said.

He means gone to the meatpacking plant to be processed. But with pork processing plants shut down due to worker safety concerns, he's faced with a grisly task: He needs to kill the pigs to make room for more.

And Leman isn't the only one. With meatpacking plant closures and reduced processing capacity nationwide, America's hog farmers expect an unprecedented crisis: the need to euthanize millions of pigs.

Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country were recently ordered back to work in plants that have seen massive outbreaks of COVID-19. According to recent CDC data reflecting some states' outbreaks through the end of April, at least 5,000 workers have contracted the virus and 20 have died. Other nonprofit organizations have reported many more.

seaboardfoods.com

Like many other parts of the High Plains region, the Oklahoma panhandle is seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases – over half of which have been traced to a meatpacking plant. While state and local officials are making efforts aimed at stemming further spread, it is unclear whether there is sufficient hospital capacity in the area to weather a surge in cases.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

As Gov. Greg Abbott continues lifting restrictions on Texas businesses and activities, coronavirus infection rates are exploding in Panhandle communities near meatpacking plants.

Despite an explosion of new coronavirus cases in the Texas Panhandle tied to local meatpacking plants, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated Tuesday that he will not reimpose stricter stay-at-home rules for Amarillo and surrounding communities, relying instead on “surge response teams” to deal with growing outbreaks.

The family of a man who died of COVID-19 has sued the West Dallas meat processing plant where he worked. The suit alleges Quality Sausage Company didn’t take the virus seriously or protect its workers. 

A sprawling, low-profile conglomerate based in Merriam, Kansas, owns a pork processing plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, that has become one of the country's latest coronavirus hotspots.

More than 110 workers at the Seaboard Foods plant had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, according to the company.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

DODGE CITY, Kansas — In the days leading up to President Donald Trump’s mandate that all meatpacking plants stay open, workers in western Kansas’ meatpacking triangle were worried that precautions now being taken aren’t enough to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

“We're right next to each other in the locker rooms,” Brandon Vasquez said about the possibility of social distancing at the National Beef plant in Dodge City, where he’s worked for about a year. “The lunch line ... they put stuff on the floor where we should stay six feet apart. But a lot of people are not listening and there's nobody enforcing (social distancing) in there.”

Corinne Boyer/Servicio de Noticias de Kansas (Kansas News Service)

DODGE CITY, Kansas — Antes del mandato de presidente Donald Trump que las plantas de envasado de carne deberían permanecer abiertas, los trabajadores ya estaban preocupados porque las precauciones actuales no son suficientes para detener la propagación de COVID-19 coronavirus. Estos serían los trabajadores en el triángulo de plantas empacadoras de carne del oeste de Kansas.

President Trump's executive order keeps beef, poultry and pork processors open by invoking the Defense Production Act.

Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country have contracted COVID-19, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Colorado have closed in response. The order says those closures not only threaten the supply chain but undermine critical infrastructure.

BETHANY WOOD / FOR THE KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Notice actualizado: Lee Norman, el secretario de salud de Kansas, dijo viernes que Kansas ahora tiene 250 casos del coronavirus COVID-19 entre los trabajadores en las seis plantas de envasado de carne del estado. El gobierno federal envió suministros para dar exámenes a miles de personas del parte suroeste de Kansas. Además, el Centro para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC) está enviando personas a la región. 

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Dos condados del oeste de Kansas que tienen plantas de envasado de carne también tienen algunos de los casos más de Coronavirus COVID-19 en el estado. Oficiales de la planta Tyson cerca de Garden City dijeron esta semana que tienen algunos casos entre sus trabajadores. 

Bethany Wood / For the Kansas News Service

Update: Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman said on Friday that Kansas has now identified 250 cases of COVID-19 among workers at the state's six meatpacking plants. The federal government has sent supplies to test thousands of people in southwest Kansas. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending staff to the region.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Two western Kansas counties that are home to meatpacking plants have some of the highest counts of the coronavirus in the state. It’s a distinction that comes as the Tyson plant near Garden City said this week it has several cases among its workers.

None of the meatpacking plants, which make up about 25% of the national beef supply according to a Kansas State professor’s estimate, has shared a specific count of workers with a COVID-19 diagnosis. And the state health department leaves it up to county health departments to decide whether to provide the public with detailed case information.

Smithfield Foods, one of the biggest meat producers in the country, is operating its plant in Milan, Mo., "in a manner that contributies" to the spread of the coronavirus, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Kansas City.

Friday, April 17, 2020 Workers at a processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska, have fallen ill with symptoms of COVID-19. The company confirmed its first case of the disease earlier this week. LPP confirmed in a statement the employees are isolating at home with sick pay.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The continuing spread of COVID-19 among workers who slaughter livestock and package meat poses a growing threat to keeping the industry’s plants in operation.

Already, the coronavirus temporarily shut down a pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a beefpacking facility in Greeley, Colorado

Now in the cattle slaughterhouses of southwest Kansas, both National Beef Packing Co. and Cargill Inc. have confirmed cases of the coronavirus among workers at their plants in Dodge City and Liberal.