The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls will partially reopen on Monday to staff two departments – ground seasoned pork and night cleanup, according to the Associated Press.
The plant was shuttered on April 12 after an outbreak of COVID-19.
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.
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.
Smithfield Foods responded to misinformation asserted by some media about the company’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic in a release on April 24.
“We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. Operating is not a question of profits; it is a question of necessity,” the company wrote.
The pandemic has forced the entire industry with “an impossible choice: continue to operate to sustain our nation’s food supply or shutter in an attempt to entirely insulate our employees from risk.”
Although a choice no one wants to make, Smithfield said it is impossible to keep protein on tables across America if the nation’s meat plants are not running.
“Farmers have nowhere to send their animals and could be forced to euthanize livestock, effectively burying food in the ground. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” the company wrote.
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