The CEO of JBS USA, one of the largest meat producers in the US, told the Wall Street Journal that he doesn’t expect the country’s meat supply chain to return to normal any time soon due to impacts that COVID-19 has had on the industry.
“We will not be able to go to full capacity anytime soon as we fight this virus because of all the changes we have implemented," JBS USA Holdings chief executive Andre Nogueira told the Journal. He added that the pandemic will likely curtail US meat production for months as safety measures have reduced the amount of staffing in processing plants across the country and continues to temporary idle facilities for cleaning after outbreaks.
JBS produces almost one-fifth of all pork in the US and slaughters 23 percent of the country’s cattle — making it the US’ largest beef producer. Nogueira told the Journal that JBS is revamping its plant operations to space workers further apart and that 10 percent of its staff has been sent home for their high risk of complications from COVID-19. He added that JBS is working with health officials on safety measures at plants as they return to 90 percent production capacity.
JBS USA is a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS SA, which took a $1 billion net loss in the first quarter of 2020. The Journal’s report Monday came the same day reports of an eighth worker death from COVID-19 at JBS’ Greeley, CO meatpacking plant, where 366 positive cases of the virus have been confirmed — the largest outbreak in the state. The plant was closed for two weeks starting April 10 for cleaning and testing after two deaths and several positive cases among its 6,000 employees.