Just three days after announcing it would close its massive meat processing facility in South Dakota, Smithfield Foods said Wednesday that it will also close two plants in Wisconsin and Missouri that are in hotspots of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Virginia-based company said it will close its Cudahy, WI and Martin City, MO facilities later this week and that both have had a small number of employees test positive for the virus. The Cudahy dry sausage and bacon plant will close for two weeks. The Martin City plant employs more than 400 people and produces spiral and smoked hams and receives raw material from the company's Sioux Falls, SD plant that is closed indefinitely.
Smithfield said that without those raw materials, the Martin City plant cannot operate. The company will reopen the Sioux Falls facility once it receives further direction from local, state and federal officials, and subsequently reopen the Martin City facility.
The company said employees will be paid for the next two weeks, during which time-essential personnel will repeat rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization that Smithfield said has been ongoing at the facilities.
"The closure of our Martin City plant is part of the domino effect underway in our industry," said Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield. "It highlights the interdependence and interconnectivity of our food supply chain. Our country is blessed with abundant livestock supplies, but our processing facilities are the bottleneck of our food chain. Without plants like Sioux Falls running, other further processing facilities like Martin City cannot function. This is why our government has named food and agriculture critical infrastructure sectors and called on us to maintain operations and normal work schedules. For the security of our nation, I cannot understate how critical it is for our industry to continue to operate unabated."
In Smithfield's press release Wednesday, Sullivan went on to emphasize safety measures the company has taken to protect its employees. Those measures include the use of thermal scanning, personal protective equipment and physical barriers, along with stringent processes that follow CDC guidelines.
"We are also being explicit with employees: ‘Do not report to work if you are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. You will be paid,’” Sullivan said.
The company noted that, according to the US Food & Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.