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Cargill shuts Pennsylvania meat plant to protect employees against COVID-19

Cargill Inc closed a US meat plant until further notice on Tuesday (8 April), the company said, disrupting the food supply for grocery stores that have seen demand surge as the country battles the new coronavirus.

8 April 2020, at 10:46am

The facility in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, produces meat for retail food customers, Cargill said in a statement. The products include ground beef, steaks, beef roasts and pork products that are sold at grocery stores across the country, according to the company's website.

"Our goal is to keep our 900 employees at this case-ready protein facility healthy and minimise risk within the Hazleton community, which has been greatly impacted by COVID-19," Cargill said.

"Our facility will re-open as soon as is it is safe to do so."

Privately held Cargill said it is working with customers, farmers and employees "to keep the food system running."

Other major meat companies including Tyson Foods Inc and JBS USA said on Monday they shut three facilities that produce pork and beef in Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Reduced meat output from the shutdowns threatens to tighten supplies of certain products at a time when demand is rising at grocery stores as the country battles COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Tyson Foods Inc shut its hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa, for the week after more than 24 cases of COVID-19 involving employees at the facility, according to a statement. The company said it would divert hogs to other pork plants in an attempt to minimise the disruption from the closure.

The facility kills about 10,100 pigs a day, or about 2 percent of the country's total slaughtering capacity, said Steve Meyer, economist for US commodity firm Kerns and Associates.