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The U.S.’s meat supply is reportedly ‘at risk’ following the closure of a major slaughterhouse due to worker sickness from coronavirus.

The coronavirus, which is understood to have started at a wet market in China’s Wuhan last December, has since spread globally killing tens of thousands of people and causing lockdowns around the world.

Now Smithfield meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has become the country’s third major slaughterhouse to shut down – prompting many to speculate that a meat shortage could be imminent.

Coronavirus

The facility had planned a three-day shutdown, for deep cleaning and so barriers could be installed for social distancing. But now the facility has been closed indefinitely.

According to reports, of the 730 people diagnosed with coronavirus in the state, 293 work at the plant (which employs a total of 3,700 workers). Smithfield says it will pay workers for the next two weeks.

‘Perilously close to the edge’

The meat processor’s CEO, Kenneth Sullivan, put out a statement yesterday saying: “The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.

“We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, there ‘has been no evidence that the coronavirus is being transmitted through food or its packaging’, reports say.