The closure of Smithfield’s South Dakota pork plant due to a coronavirus outbreak is having a “domino effect” on sister facilities, which will also be closing, the meat producer said.
The Smithfield, Va.-based company said its spiral and smoked ham facility in Martin City, Mo., which employs 400, would shutter indefinitely as a result of the previous Smithfield closure in Sioux Falls, S.D., which provided raw materials to the Martin City site. A third Smithfield facility—a dry sausage and bacon plant in Cudahy, Wis.—is separately closing for two weeks.
Both plants had a “small number” of associates test positive for COVID-19 and are in proximity to urban areas where the spread of the disease has been prevalent, Smithfield said. The facilities would undergo “rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization” processes during the shutdown. Employees at both facilities will be paid for two weeks, Smithfield added.
“The closure of our Martin City plant is part of the domino effect underway in our industry. It highlights the interdependence and interconnectivity of our food supply chain,” Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement.
Sullivan has been outspoken about the need to continue operating the facilities, saying the closure in Sioux Falls threatens farmers and grocery stores. However, the Sioux Falls facility has been one of the country’s largest epicenters of coronavirus infections, accounting for half of all cases in the state of South Dakota.
“Our country is blessed with abundant livestock supplies, but our processing facilities are the bottleneck of our food chain,” Sullivan said. “Without plants like Sioux Falls running, other further processing facilities like Martin City cannot function. This is why our government has named food and agriculture critical infrastructure sectors and called on us to maintain operations and normal work schedules. For the security of our nation, I cannot understate how critical it is for our industry to continue to operate unabated.”