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Tyson Foods CFO on potential meat shortage: 'Don't panic'

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Americans may soon have a meat shortage to worry about, now that dozens of beef and poultry plants have shut down across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tyson Foods, the country’s largest meat producer, has a message for consumers: “Don’t panic.”

Tyson was forced to shut two pork processing plants, including its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after dozens of workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Appearing on Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade,” Tyson’s CFO Stewart Glendinning, said his company is focused on making sure America gets food.

“Our employees come first, and then of course we are very focused on making sure there is food in the supermarkets,” he said.

The recent Tyson plant closures mean that about 18% of hog-slaughtering capacity is completely offline. Glendinning says the supply chain has been “dramatically interrupted.”

“If you look at USDA public data, you will see that pork and beef production across the industry is down 20% to 30%. That’s 20% to 30% less meat arriving at your table. That creates a very significant problem for farmers, as well,” he said. “Remember, these folks are growing animals that are going to be ending up on your table, and they have no place to go.”

Fotografía sin fecha de una planta Tyson Fresh Meat en Waterloo, Ioawa. (Jeff Reinitz/The Courier vía AP)
Tyson Fresh Meat plant in Waterloo, Ioawa. (Jeff Reinitz/The Courier via AP)

It’s not just Tyson. Smithfield’s pork plant in South Dakota that handles 5% of U.S. pork production has suspended operations indefinitely.

The tighter supply is expected to raise retail prices as grocery stores mandate rationing on pork chops. Tyson’s product portfolio includes Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, BallPark, Wright, Aidell's and State Fair brands.

Glendinning couldn’t offer a date for when the shuttered plants would re-open, but said Tyson is working closely with local governments to bring the plants back online.

“What’s really important here is that we start getting really good community data so that we can manage together with local officials to ensure that our plants come up as quickly as they can and as safely as they can.”

Alexis Christoforous is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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