More closures at U.S. meat, pork processing plants amid coronavirus, shortages still not expected

Consumers urged not to stockpile meat

Updated: April 24, 2020 - 8:53am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Outbreaks of the coronavirus are closing more meat packing plants across the country, which is expected to result in some spot or short-term shortages in grocery stores. However, officials so far are not expecting a widespread shortage, saying the county has an adequate meat stockpile. 

Tyson Foods Inc. announced earlier this week that it will temporarily close its meatpacking plant in north-central Indiana, after 146 employees reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus.

The closure is just one of several in the U.S. as a result of coronavirus outbreaks. Among the closures are Smithfield Foods' plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; a JBS USA plant in Worthington, Minnesota; and a Redwood Farms Meat Processors facility in Estherville, Iowa, according to the Associated Press. 

Shortages on store shelves will largely be the result of shoppers stockpiling meat for fear it will no longer be available, similar to the situation with toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. In addition, the spot shortages and consumer behavior are expected to increase the price of beef and pork.

Alabama Grocers Association President Ellie Taylor said Wednesday that the plant closures represent just 10% of the country's meat supply.

“So, you are going to see some outages, particularly on some products you may normally buy, but the overall meat supply should still be stable,” Taylor told local TV station ABC News 33-40. “Please don’t stockpile. Please take what you need but leave some for your neighbor. You may not get that first choice of the item you normally purchase, but there will be other items.”