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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Supermarkets are struggling to meet growing consumer demand for meat as the coronavirus impacts workers at processing plants across the United States, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Industry leaders say COVID-19 is forcing thousands of plant workers to remain at home, meaning meat suppliers must reduce the volume and variety of cuts they sell to stores.

  • A Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is among the latest to close, after at least 644 cases of the virus have been traced back to the facility.
  • It accounts for 4–5% of all pork production in the U.S. and employs approximately 3,700 workers.

The big picture: Meat sales have jumped by 30% over the past month at B&R Stores, a Midwestern grocery chain, as suppliers are filling only about 75% of meat orders, company president Mark Griffin told the WSJ.

  • Smithfield announced on Thursday it will temporarily close another two plants — one in Wisconsin and another in Missouri — because of the virus, the Star Tribune reports.

What they're saying: "For Americans who ... may be worried about access to good food because of this, I want to assure you: The American food supply is strong, resilient and safe," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday in a White House press conference.

  • Perdue also announced this week that the Trump administration plans to buy milk and meat from farmers to help them weather the impact of the outbreak, per Reuters.

Go deeper: Stresses on food supply chains are causing empty supermarket shelves

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.