U.S. slaughterhouses under pressure to remain openChristian Fernsby ▼ | March 18, 2020
The USDA is seeking to reassure meat producers it will keep slaughterhouses staffed with federal inspectors as fears about potential shutdowns due to the new coronavirus hammer livestock prices and fuel concerns about food supplies.
Prices for cattle and hogs could fall further if coronavirus cases force companies like Tyson Foods Inc or WH Group's Smithfield Foods to close slaughterhouses. Shutdowns would remove markets for farmers to sell their animals and could temporarily tighten meat supplies.
The USDA said it would use its authority and "all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations" during the outbreak.
Agency officials told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association that the USDA will ensure it has replacement inspectors ready to staff slaughterhouses if necessary, said Colin Woodall, chief executive of the trade group. Farmers and industry groups said there were no confirmed shutdowns.
"We need to make sure that we're keeping the beef flowing," Woodall said. ■