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Meatpacking plants in Utah closed due to COVID-19 outbreak will cause increase in food prices

Posted at 7:31 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 22:47:17-04

Two additional meatpacking plants in Utah have had to shut down their operations completely for a few weeks after employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The largest spike in COVID19 cases can be traced to JBS in Cache County.

The pandemic had caused a slow in production causing JBS to work at half their capacity — normally slaughtering 2,200 cows a day, now only 1,300.

When nearly 300 employees were infected, production slowed down to one-fourth of their capacity, or 700 cows a day.

Logan Wilde, Commissioner for the Department of Agriculture said even though the employees were home, cows continued to shipped in.

“You got to have this pipeline of trucks and a truck can haul about 30 cows at a time,” said Wilde “You’re talking 90 trucks a day coming into that facility that you have to plan for and have routes to include.”

About 100 farms that provided cattle to JBS were impacted by the slow down.

Two small meatpacking plants that slaughter about 80 to 100 cows per week, were forced to completely shut their doors after employees contracted COVID-19.

The Department of Agriculture and Food has already approved $4 million of applications to help facilities like the two smaller meatpacking plants who have been impacted by the virus.

Wilde said the grant money is will provide for the extra costs of purchasing PPE for others on top of the companies normal expenditures.

“There may be a few bumps in the road,” said Wilde. “We feel like we could absorb that.”

Wilde said all three of the meatpacking plants impacted should be up and running this week and in the weeks to come.

“My understanding is JBS is at 1300 right now and they’re looking to get back up to 2200 shortly,” said Wilde.

The Utah Department of Health confirmed there is no evidence the virus can be transferred by food.

The greatest impact on Utahn’s, said Wilde, will be the increase in food prices.