Employees at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., were greeted at work on Wednesday with thank-you signs, cheers and waves from about a dozen people from the community, reports the Associated Press.
“They’re putting their health at risk just like the hospital workers are to continue on with this work, so I hope they feel appreciated,” Becky Olson, a Sioux Falls resident who held a sign outside Smithfield’s entrance, said in the AP article.
More workers returned to work this week as operations scale back up in order to get the plant back up to producing roughly 5% of the nation’s pork supply.
The company said they are doing everything in their power to help protect team members from COVID-19 in the workplace. They have implemented an extensive array of COVID-19 protocols and practices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toured the plant in mid-April and released a report on April 23.
“The company implemented several controls at the plant to help reduce and mitigate the spread of coronavirus between employees while in the plant and is in the process of implementing additional strategies as discussed above,” the report notes.
The report highlights recommendations from the CDC to Smithfield, including beginning a process of hierarchy of controls, social distancing, better screening, extended sick leave, increased hygiene, new policies, increased hand washing, training and more personal protective equipment.
In the article, an employee shared that the plant’s closure and safety measures gave him confidence to return to work. He also noted that the people who showed up to cheer him on made him feel the community cared.
The plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., providing nearly 130 million servings of food per week and employing 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant, according to a statement from Smithfield.
More from Farm Journal's PORK: