Tyson Foods suspended operations Wednesday at an Iowa plant that is critical to the nation's pork supply but was blamed for fueling a massive coronavirus outbreak in the region. The Arkansas-based company said the closure of the plant in Waterloo would deny a vital market to hog farmers and further disrupt US meat supply. Tyson had kept the facility, its largest pork plant, open in recent days over the objections of alarmed local officials, the AP reports. The plant can process 19,500 hogs per day, accounting for 3.9% of US pork processing capacity, according to the National Pork Board. More than 180 infections have been linked to the plant and officials expect that number to dramatically rise.
Cases and hospitalizations in Black Hawk County have skyrocketed in recent days and local officials say the plant is the source of most infections. Tyson also announced the closure of a pork plant in Logansport, Indiana, Wednesday. An estimated 25% of US pork processing capacity has been closed or idled due to reduced operating speed over the past two days, said Steve Meyer, an economist with Kerns and Associates in Ames, Iowa. As a result, prices are starting to increase and analysts warn that customers could soon see shortages of certain products at grocery stores. At the same time, hog prices are plummeting due to excess supply, devastating farmers.
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