John Tyson, chairman of the board of Tyson Foods Inc., warned the nation Sunday that the “food supply chain is breaking” and “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” as a result of disrupted production at Tyson factories following outbreaks of COVID-19.
In a statement issued on the company’s website and published in several major daily newspaper, Tyson said his company, the second-largest meat processor in the world, is “being forced to shutter our doors” at plants across the U.S.
“Anxiety, doubt and the fear of the unknown are now our constant companions,” Tyson said.
The company employs more than 100,000 workers in 27 states. Like Smithfield, Cargill Inc, JBS USA and National Beef Packing Co., Tyson has shut down a number of U.S. plants in recent weeks after COVID-19 outbreaks in its factories.
“Millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities,” Tyson said. “In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation.”
Tyson said the company must balance its mission to produce protein with its care for its laborers’ health and safety.
“We have a responsibility to feed our country,” he said. “It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America. This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.”
The chairman of the board said his company has taken steps to protect workers, including installing temperature scanners, providing face masks, erecting dividers between workers and relaxing the attendance policy for sick workers.
The company is waiving the waiting period to qualify for short-term disability so workers can immediately be paid if they get sick, Tyson said. Also waived are the co‑pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing, along with eliminating pre-approval or preauthorization steps, waiving co-pays for the use of telemedicine and relaxing refill limits for 30‑day prescriptions of maintenance medication.
“Tyson Foods is also paying approximately $60 million in ‘thank you’ bonuses to 116,000 frontline workers and Tyson truckers who support our operations every day,” Tyson said.
The Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Perry tested its 1,300-member workforce for COVID-19 Saturday. The test results are expected in a few days.