Smithfield Foods and JBS have closed meat-processing sites, while Tyson Foods shut down pork plants in Iowa and Indiana last week after they were found to be hot spots for coronavirus outbreaks. Now Tyson is issuing a dire warning on the state of the industry as a result of the pandemic. It made its proclamation via a full-page ads Sunday in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with John Tyson, the chair of the company's board, delivering the news. "The food supply chain is breaking," he said in the public notice, per Time. "As pork, beef, and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain." This, in turn, will lead to a ripple effect of farmers having too much livestock on their hands, he added: "Millions of animals—chickens, pigs and cattle—will be depopulated."
Some of these closed-down plants had been criticized for not setting up safety measures and offering adequate protective gear. "I want my job, but I want a safe job," an employee at Tyson's shuttered plant in Waterloo, Iowa, tells CNN. "I got family and grandkids that I love, and I'm not going to risk their lives to cut some damn hogs up." In the Sunday ad, John Tyson said the company now will mandate face masks, take workers' temps, and implement other measures to protect workers at its sites, per CNN Business. Meanwhile, Politico reports the USDA has been "woefully slow" in addressing the virus and its effect on farmers, claiming the agency has "let millions of pounds of food rot." A USDA rep, however, insists all is under control, noting in a statement to Time it will work with the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC to "ensure the food supply chain remains safe and secure." (Read more Tyson Foods stories.)