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Millions Of Chickens Will Soon Be Killed Due To Lack Of Employees At Processing Plants
A silkie serama cockerel crows as he waits to be judged at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire.
Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

In a somewhat confusing decision, a chicken processing company has decided to “depopulate” two million chickens across several farms in Delaware and Maryland due to a lack of employees at the company’s chicken processing plants.

CNN reported that Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. issued a press release saying it had come to the “difficult but necessary” decision to humanely kill the chickens put apparently not use them for food. The decision was made after “the study of other alternatives, including allowing another chicken company to transport and process the chickens and taking a partially processed product to rendering facilities to utilize for other animal feed.”

“If no action were taken, the birds would outgrow the capacity of the chicken house to hold them,” the company added, while insisting no processing plants would be closed and explaining that the farmers will still be compensated for the chickens.

Further, the company said the chickens would be depopulated “using approved, humane methods” accepted by the American Veterinary Medical Association as well as state and local guidelines, CNN reported.

The move is curious, since such depopulations are usually only done due to animal health concerns, the Maryland Department of Agriculture told CNN.

“MDA is only involved in depopulations when it is done in response to animal health concerns,” it said in a statement. “This particular case was a private decision made by an individual business.”

The birds must be depopulated because the company’s processing plants lack enough staff due to “additional community cases of COVID-19, additional testing, and people practicing the ‘stay home if you’re sick’ social distancing guidance from public health officials.”

As Business Insider reported, the millions of birds to be killed represents “a small percentage of the total birds processed by the plant each year,” yet “highlights a massive problem facing the food supply chain in the U.S.”

On Sunday, Tyson Foods warned the “food supply chain is breaking,” as processing plants are forced to close down across the country due to the coronavirus lockdown.

“In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we’re being forced to shutter our doors,” John Tyson said in a full-page ad in The New York Times and Washington Post. “This means one thing — 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 limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

In addition to meat supply issues, crop farmers have had to let their produce rot due to an inability to get the food to market. Farmers have been sending unsold crops to food banks to avoid rot as much as possible.

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