Industryweek 4475 Smithfieldfoods 5e94946be49b3

Smithfield Foods Temporarily Closes Sioux Falls Pork Plant

April 13, 2020
According to South Dakota health officials, 293 of 730 of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Dakota work at the plant.

Smithfield Foods, Inc., in response to the coronavirus outbreak, announced April 12 that they would close their Sioux Falls, South Dakota pork processing facility until further notice. The factory’s 3,700 employees will be compensated for two weeks. The plant is one of the largest of its kind in the United States: According to Smithfield, it accounts for 4 to 5% of U.S. pork production and produces roughly 18 million servings a day. The plant will continue some operations on April 13 in order to process product in inventory.

Food processing facilities are considered “essential infrastructure” by lockdown orders issued by states and local governments, so other factories like Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant remain open. On Saturday, April 11, one day before Smithfield announced it would close its plant, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken sent a letter to Smithfield asking them to close the plant.

“As of today, individuals who work at Smithfield account for 54 percent of the total cases (438) reported in Minnehaha County,” the letter read. “That is an alarming statistic.” According to the Associated Press, state health officials now say that 293 of the 730 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Dakota work at the plant.

In a statement, Smithfield Foods CEO Kenneth Sullivan worried that the coronavirus could imperil the nation’s food supply. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he said. Smithfield Foods produces food under several brands, including Eckrich and Nathan’s Famous.

Sullivan also said that the factory closures would hurt Smithfield’s suppliers, especially for the farmers who raise the hogs used by Smithfield. “These farmers have nowhere to send their animals,” he said. Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant reportedly uses hogs from more than 500 local farmers.

In initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, Smithfield Foods ramped up the use of disinfectant, social distancing in common areas of the plant, added health sanitizer stations, checked employee temperatures, and expanded employee health benefits. On April 13, they also announced they would donate at least $30 million worth of food to food banks across the country.

In a statement, the Smithfield, Virginia-based food processing company said that some production at the plant would take place on Tuesday, April 14 in order to process some remaining inventory. After that, the factory will remain closed until the company receives notice from local, state, and federal officials.

About the Author

IW Staff

Find contact information for the IndustryWeek staff: Contact IndustryWeek

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!