COVID-19: Nation's Food Supply Chain Is Breaking, Tyson Chairman Warns

The head of one of the nation’s largest companies in the food industry is cautioning that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could be on the verge of “breaking the supply chain.”

The board chairman of Tyson Foods said that COVID-19 could "break the supply chain" of food.
The board chairman of Tyson Foods said that COVID-19 could "break the supply chain" of food. Photo Credit: Tyson Foods

In a full-page ad published in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Tyson Foods board chairman John Tyson warned that there will be meat shortages and serious food waste issues due to the virus.

According to Tyson, the company, headquartered in ‎Springdale, Arkansas‎, has been forced to close the doors of many of its processing plants due to COVID-19, leaving more than 100,000 people without work.

“This means one thing,” he wrote. “The food supply chain is vulnerable. As pork, beef, and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain. 

"As a result, there will be a limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

Tyson said that in addition to the meat shortage, there has been a 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,” he said. “Millions of animals – chickens, pigs, and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.

“The food supply chain is breaking.”

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Tyson has taken steps that include:

  • taking worker temperatures,
  • installing more than 150 infrared walk-through temperature scanners in facilities,
  • securing a supply of face coverings before the CDC recommended their use and now, requiring them in all company facilities;
  • and conducting additional daily deep cleaning and sanitizing. 

Tyson announced that it “is waiving the waiting period to qualify for short-term disability so workers can immediately be paid if they get sick. 

"We’re also waiving the co‑pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing, as well as 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.”

In recent weeks, Tyson Foods has been forced to temporarily pause operations at a number of plants following outbreaks of COVID-19, or because of staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.

“We are also encouraging our team members to continue the social distancing practices we have established within our operations, before and after shifts and in their communities. We must do everything we can to prevent their exposure to the virus outside of our facilities and not contribute to a community spread in our plant localities.”

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