Washington Tyson beef plant scales back production while dealing with COVID-19 cases


During the NAFTA renegotiations, it was continually reinforced by Canada and the U.S. that the beef supply chain between the two countries is highly integrated. From a trade perspective many look at this as a positive, but that does mean we share in market risk.

Early on Monday, April 13, RealAgriculture was notified by feedyards that cattle shipments to the Tyson beef plant at Pasco were cancelled this week. The plant can process up to 2,300 head per day, but RealAgriculture has confirmed that it is pulling back processing. Also in Washington, the Agri Beef Co. plant is decreasing kills. Both plants process fat cattle out of Canada.

KREM reports that 35 cases of COVID-19 have been detected at the Tyson facility.

A spokesperson for Tyson says in a statement sent to RealAgriculture, “We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country.

We’ve been checking worker temperatures, providing face coverings, and initiating additional cleaning. We’ve implemented social distancing measures, such as installing workstation dividers and providing more break room space. We relaxed our attendance policy in March to encourage workers to stay at home when they’re sick. We’ve also been educating team members on COVID-19, including the importance of following CDC guidelines away from work.

When there’s a confirmed case at one of our locations, as part of our protocol we separate the worker involved and send them home. We also notify anyone who has been in close contact with them.”

Beef processing plants across the continent continue to deal with the growing COVID-19 crisis and disruption to the food chain.

The Cargill beef plant at High River, Alta., decided to cut back one shift earlier this week, and JBS in Greeley, Colorado, which processes up to 5,400 head per day, intends to close until April 24, 2020.

Hog and poultry processing in both Canada and the U.S. is also under pressure, as an Ontario Maple Leaf poultry plant is still closed, and a Quebec Olymel pork plant closed for more than two weeks. Pork processors in Iowa and South Dakota have also closed.

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