What is happening?
At least 12 meatpacking plants in the US have closed with at least 2460 workers testing positive and 17 deaths. A single Smithfield plant in South Dakota “has reported 518 infections in employees”. The situation is so bad that about a quarter of American pork production and 10% of beef output has halted.
Meat processing plants are a hotspot for virus because of the close working conditions and a constant spray of water on the lines. Masks are basically useless once they get wet. Meat workers are 4x more likely to become ill than other manufacturing workers There is no way for these factories to operate safely or adhere to social distancing.
100 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have tested positive for the coronavirus. These inspectors are very likely to spread the virus to other plants that may not be impacted before they realize they are sick.
Tyson ($TSN) has already closed 4 of their meat processing plants because of Covid-19 cases while 6 more are dealing with Covid outbreaks but haven’t shut down yet.
So how is Tyson protecting its workers? By offering them bonuses to keep showing up to work. At the Tyson plant in Camilla, Ga, the company offered its 2,100 workers a $500 bonus if they worked in April, May and June without missing a day. Which may have led to at least 3 deaths including a longtime 15 year employee named Annie Grant. She tried to call in sick but was told that she “had to work to feed America.”
How about the Department of Agriculture? What are they doing to help? “Rather than increase safety and oversight, the U.S. Department of Agriculture relaxed it in the midst of the pandemic. Just this month, the agency allowed 15 poultry plants to exceed federal limits on how many birds workers can process in a minute.”
Even our Vice President is putting pressure on workers to continue coming to work even without proper protection in place. “You are vital,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday. “You are giving a great service to the people of the United States of America and we need you to continue, as a part of what we call critical infrastructure, to show up and do your job.”
These closures are now affecting ranchers trucks full of hogs and cattle are being turned away at these factories. When pigs/cattle have to stay on a ranch too long they end up running out of both feed and space.
Grocers are now struggling to secure meat which will lead to rising costs of meat.
Disclaimer: This information is only for educational purposes. Do not make any investment decisions based on the information in this article. Do you own due diligence.