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Meat shelves lay empty at a supermarket in Saugus, Mass. on March 13, 2020. Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, is suspending operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, the company announced on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The closure "further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply," per the company. It comes as the meat industry has slowed production, leading to price increases, as plant workers across the country have fallen ill with the coronavirus.

  • Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, also announced three plant closures in recent days, including a pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. At least 644 coronavirus cases were traced back to that facility.

What they're saying: “Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production." said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, in a news release.

  • “The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” Stouffer said.
  • “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.” 

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Why it matters: Although testing has gotten a lot better over the course of the pandemic, the pandemic has gotten worse, and that means the U.S. needs to prioritize its resources — which might mean that frequent testing solely to help open businesses or schools just isn't feasible.

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