A major beef packing plant will come offline this week after detecting coronavirus infections among its staff, two of whom have died.
JBS USA announced Monday that its Greeley, Colo., plant will be temporarily closed until April 24; a press release says “rather than test its team members, the company has decided to take more aggressive action and self-quarantine Greeley beef employees until plant reopening.”
According to news reports, about 50 of the plant’s roughly 3,000 employees have already tested positive for the disease, including two that have died. Weld County, Colo., where the plant is located, has almost 740 positive cases.
“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira said in a statement.
According to the company’s website, the Greeley processing facility exports to 20 different countries and makes annual livestock payments of more than $2 billion.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis told reporters today he was in contact with Vice President Mike Pence multiple times over the weekend about the status of the plant. He said the Colorado National Guard will “provide logistical support for testing” so the company can safely reopen the facility.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO Colin Woodall said the organization is “concerned about the closure” of the facility.
“The closure of packing plants during this crisis will have an impact on cattle and beef prices,” Woodall said. “Plant closures or slowdowns have significant regional and national implications that will ripple through the marketplace at a time when cattle producers are already suffering from market uncertainty and economic hardship.”
“Currently, there is no shortage of beef and consumers can continue to be confident about the safety and wholesomeness of the products they are purchasing during this crisis,” he added.
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Greeley represents the second JBS USA facility to shutter as a result of COVID-19. The company says its Souderton, Pa., beef facility is also temporarily closed and “increased absenteeism” has been observed “in a few other plants.” The “majority of its facilities across the country” are operating “at or near capacity,” the company noted in a release.
A beef facility in Tama, Iowa, will also be closed until April 20, National Beef announced today. The news comes on the heels of the indefinite closure of the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., which was announced over the weekend.
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