USDA States Meatpacking Facilities are Operating at 95% Capacity Compared to 2019
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a press release applauding the efforts of meatpacking facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump’s Executive Order categorized meatpacking facilities as essential businesses and directed the facilities to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines specifically created for the meat and poultry sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 9, 2020, USDA stated that across the cattle, swine, and broiler sectors, processing facilities are operating more than 95% of their average capacity compared to this time last year. Beef facilities are operating at 98%, pork facilities are operating at 95%, and poultry facilities are operating at 98% of their capacity compared to the same time last year. The USDA also states it, in conjunction with the CDC, OSHA, and state and local health officials have been working around the clock to ensure a safe and stable supply of protein is available for American consumers all while keeping employees safe.
“President Trump took decisive action to ensure America’s meatpacking facilities reopen in a safe way to ensure America’s producers and ranchers will be able to bring their product to market,” said Secretary Perdue. “I want to thank the patriotic and heroic meatpacking facility workers, the companies, and the local authorities for quickly getting their operations back up and running, and for providing a great meat selection once again to the millions of Americans who depend on them for food."
Steve Kay, Meat and Poultry contributing editor and editor and publisher for Cattle Buyers Weekly said cattle slaughter during the first week in June was down 4.4% compared to last year and hog slaughter was down 1.3%. As a result, Kay calculated that based on total industry capacity, beef plants ran at 87.6% of capacity and pork plants were at 88.4% of capacity, on average.
On June 15, 2020, The New York Times published that nationwide, 30% to 50% of meatpacking employees were absent last week, according to Mark Lauritsen, a vice president at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and one-third of Smithfield Foods Inc. employees are missing, according to the worker’s union. The article also states that data from USDA show that processors slaughtered about 438,000 hogs on Friday, June 12th, down 12% from the peak before the pandemic.