John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods, warned in full-page ads published in The New York Times and The Washington Post on Sunday that as more meat plants are being forced to close amid the coronavirus crisis, “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain.”
Tyson has been forced to close multiple plants after weeks of public pressure. The company, “which employs roughly 100,000 workers, closed its pork plants in Waterloo, Iowa, and Logansport, Indiana, last week so that workers in those facilities could be tested for the virus,” CNN reports. “The Waterloo plant closure came after weeks of public pressure. Production had already slowed there because many of its 2,800 workers had been calling out sick, and local health authorities linked the Tyson plant to 182 cases — nearly half of the county’s total.”
While the company is “taking steps to protect its workers, including installing dividers between workers and relaxing its attendance policy to allow sick workers to stay home,” as reported by NBC News, the plants remained close. The significant disruption in meat production caused by the closures — which other companies, inlacing Smithfield Foods, are also facing — is leading to a food supply crisis, Tyson explained in the statement Sunday.
“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,” said Tyson. “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 order to get the plants producing the food so desperately needed, said Tyson, authorities much take action so that workers can return to work safely and “without fear, panic or worry.”
“The government bodies at the national, state, county and city levels must unite in a comprehensive, thoughtful and productive way to allow our team members to work in safety without fear, panic or worry,” said Tyson. “The private and public sectors must come together. As a country, this is our time to show the world what we can do when working together.”
If we fail to take action, he warned, the consequences will be dire because “the food supply chain is breaking.”
“In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue,” he explained. “Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation. Millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking.”
“We have a responsibility to feed our country,” Tyson stressed. “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.”
Below is the full text of Tyson’s warning, which the company published as a full-page advertisement Sunday in the Times, the Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and also published on the company’s “The Feed” blog:
Sometimes life changes in the blink of an eye, and the world as we know it is different. Anxiety, doubt, and the fear of the unknown are now our constant companions.
As Chairman of Tyson Foods, I am grateful for our team members, but most of all I care about their health and safety. They come to work every day to feed our country with safe, sustainable, quality and affordable food. Our team members produce food to go on family tables, in lunch boxes, in picnic baskets, for take-out orders and wherever else you may choose to eat.
Even as COVID-19 is changing everything, Tyson Foods is rising to the challenge. Over these last few months, our team members have done what they always have: put food on the tables of millions of homes around the country. But we aren’t just feeding the nation; we are feeding communities, our friends, our neighbors – and our own families. I am thankful for our team members’ commitment to something bigger than a job.
Now, Tyson Foods is facing a new set of challenges. 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. 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.
Tyson Foods has a responsibility to feed our nation and the world. The government bodies at the national, state, county and city levels must unite in a comprehensive, thoughtful and productive way to allow our team members to work in safety without fear, panic or worry. The private and public sectors must come together. As a country, this is our time to show the world what we can do when working together.
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. Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking.
We have a responsibility to feed our country. 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.
Here is what we have done to date to protect our team members in our plants: In January, we formed a coronavirus task force; since then, we’ve put in place numerous measures to protect our team members across the nation. The company’s efforts have included taking worker temperatures and installing more than 150 infrared walkthrough temperature scanners in our 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. We’ve implemented social distancing measures, such as installing workstation dividers and providing more breakroom space. We’ve also relaxed our attendance policy to encourage workers to stay at home when they’re sick or feel uneasy about coming to work. And in a few circumstances where we haven’t been able to meet our own standards, we’ve voluntarily closed operations, only resuming when adequate safety measures were in place.
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 community spread in our plant localities.
Tyson 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.
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.
We committed $13 million to support critical needs in our local communities. That includes $2 million in community grants and more than $11 million worth of food and meals donated by the company since March 11. Over the coming days, we will make more product donations equal to an additional 100 million meals.
This year marks the 85th anniversary of Tyson Foods. Our family and the men and women who started this great company had the simple goal of feeding their families and their local communities. We accepted that responsibility then, and we still do today. I’m proud of the efforts of our team as we work through the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve remained true to our core values, especially by continuing our focus on providing a safe work environment for our team members.
It hasn’t been easy, and it’s not over. But I have faith that together, we’ll get through this. We will continue to bring new ideas to the table, solve new problems, and create new opportunities. We must come together to keep our nation fed, our country strong, and our employees healthy.
What gave us faith in the past and gives me faith today is knowing that together, we will find the right path to take care of our team members and our communities, while providing safe and healthy food for you, our consumers.
I’m grateful for team members, our customers, our communities and our consumers who depend on our products every day.
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