USDA secretary re-affirms: Food shortages not likely

Plants that had previously shut down are nearly all 'back open,' he said

Updated: May 15, 2020 - 3:49pm

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday re-affirmed that the country is unlikely to face food shortages during the coronavirus pandemic, stating that meat processing plants that had previously closed down due to outbreaks were "essentially all ... back open." 

Speaking to NPR, Perdue noted that multiple slaughterhouses throughout the United States had been hit by coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks. Plants for Tyson, Smithfield, Redwood Farms and others shut down throughout the month of April as numerous employees got sick with the disease and others called out for fear of contracting it. 

The closures led to concerns that supermarket shelves across the country would soon be empty of beef, pork and other staple meat items. Yet Perdue said that scenario was unlikely. Asked by host Steve Inskeep if he expected food shortages, the secretary said: "No, I don't." 

That response echoes remarks Perdue made earlier in the month during a May 6 White House meeting in which he said that the United States had "turned a corner" regarding meat production during the pandemic.

"I'd say probably a week to 10 days we'll be back up, fully back up," Perdue said at the time.