A CLOSER LOOK: poultry industry “just fine” during pandemic, USDA says

Coronavirus

From farm to fork, keeping food supplies safe

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — There have been no major drops in poultry production due to COVID-19 across the tri-state region: Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to a Poultry Federation spokesperson.

In fact, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on April 15 said, “the food supply is strong, resilient and safe.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has $19 billion in direct support to farmers ($16B) and ranchers ($3B) through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the agency announced Friday, April 17. This assistance should help as the USDA is required to ensure that food safety is not impacted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for the poultry aspect, one reason for the product not being too affected due to the virus is because companies acted swiftly in setting safety measures. “Travel and visitor restrictions, enhanced sanitation efforts, increased tele-work options, heightened health protocols and worker benefits to protect the health and well-being of team members,” according to Poultry Federation Director of Marketing and Business Development Holly Rogers.

To ensure worker safety some companies are paying employees extra, beyond their hourly wage.

On the creative end, to keep the process safe, companies have “chicken drive-thru’s.” Rogers said this supplies the community with freshly processed whole chickens.”

Tyson Foods has taken steps to ensure employees are safe and are asking them to not come to work if they don’t feel well. Worker temperatures are taken and the company is providing protective face coverings for employees — something they are required to wear.

Tyson Foods, Inc. Senior VP HR Business & Admin. Hector Gonzalez

The company’s 2019 fact book states there are nearly 25,000 employees at 19 plants in Arkansas. Other states of operations include: AL, AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WI for a combined total of more than 95 locations and nearly 100,000 employees.

Internationally there are nine locations from Australia to the Netherlands.

Tyson, usually is associated with chicken, but the company also has registered trademarks with Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells, ibp, State Fair and Smart Chicken.

The food producing company had $42.4 billion in sales for 2019.

Sales by segment:

  • Beef 36%
  • Chicken 31%
  • Prepared foods 20%
  • Pork 10%
  • Intl./Other 3%

Sales Distribution:

  • Consumer products 45%
  • Foodservice 31%
  • International 13%
  • Industrial/other 11%

Top 5 countries for international sales:

  • China 25%
  • Japan 16%
  • Mexico 11%
  • S Korea 10%
  • Canada 4%

George’s Inc., founded and based in Springdale in the 1920s, is a fourth generation family-owned and operated company. George’s is a top 10 vertically integrated chicken producer in the U.S. There are eight production locations — AR, MO, TN, and VA — and 7,000 employees.

CHANGES MADE TO SECURE EMPLOYEE SAFETY

  • Educational campaign on best practices for social hygiene, social distancing, and signs/symptoms of potential COVID-19 infection
  • Internal COVID-19 Task Force for monitoring/adopting policies and procedures based on the most current information and guidance
  • Team member screenings, including temperature checks utilizing Thermal imaging cameras upon entry and at the start of each shift
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation of all common use areas
  • Comprehensive production floor sanitation that occurs every night, including a complete sanitation of all machinery
  • Restriction of all non-essential business travel and instituted a screening process for those returning from personal travel
  • Preparation of an Infectious Disease Response Plan, that will be implemented with local authorities, if a team member contracts COVID-19
  • Social distancing use of visual management tools, and installation of physical barriers,including plastic dividers in break rooms and partitions between workers where distancing is not feasible
  • Actively working to secure adequate supplies of face covers for team members, in accordance with CDC voluntary guidelines for wearing cloth masks
  • Paid leave via our short-term disability program for team members who have extended absences due to COVID-19 or other serious illnesses and provides a similar benefit for team members who may be directed to self-quarantine based on potential COVID-19 exposure.

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