John H. Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods, has warned of “meat shortages” due to what he feels like a breakdown in the food supply chain as a result of coronavirus outbreaks in their factories across the United States. Tyson also defended the company’s current employee safety practices after the meat industry has come under immense criticism for endangering employees during the pandemic.
In a blog post and full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications, Tyson said that the food supply chain is “breaking” and “vulnerable.”
“We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored,” he wrote. “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.” He also went on to warn of a “serious food waste issue” as millions of animals, particularly chickens, pigs, and cattle, will be depopulated because of the closure of processing facilities.
As the post began to circulate, Tracy Reiman, who serves as PETA’s Executive Vice President, fired back at Tyson, slamming the chairman for not genuinely being concerned for animal welfare. Instead, the company is more interested in its own financial gain.
“Slaughterhouses are the least safe places on Earth to work, and that was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reiman said in remarks. “Tyson could fix its problems entirely by switching its plants to processing the vegan meat that it’s already producing.”
Many meat processing plant workers have been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Over a dozen plants have been forced to close, including those run by Tyson, Smithfield Foods and JBS. Even more disheartening, more than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants are located in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is among the nation’s highest, according to a report published by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
U.S. retailers have reported being 15.8% out of stock of poultry as of April 25th, slightly up from 14.7% a week earlier, which is not a significant change.
Tyson also stated that their factories are remedying the situation by requiring employees to wear face coverings and offering pay bonuses. They have also installed worker dividers in certain areas. The company is waiving co-pays and deductibles for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing.