Tyson Foods in Logansport and Indiana Packers in Delphi account for 44% of the pork processed in Indiana, that according to Jeanette Merritt, Director of Checkoff Programs for Indiana Pork.
She says they’ve been trying to explain to people that you can’t just turn hogs off; it’s not a widget that you can just stop producing for a couple of weeks. There is nowhere for them to go right now with these processing plants shut down.
“They have to continue to grow, so not having a place to be able to market these animals is very concerning. The animal welfare and the way we raise this livestock is our number one priority and we want animals to be raised in very high practices. We need a market.”
Merritt says that while it’s vital that plants open up as soon as possible, it’s also imperative that these plants have a workforce that is healthy.
“We care for those people that are working in those facilities. We are grateful for the job they do to keep our food supply moving and so we want those folks healthy.”
In a release Tuesday, Indiana Packers says they will start testing employees for COVID-19 beginning Friday and hope to resume operations soon. They say the testing will occur over a two-day period with results thereafter. After that testing is complete, officials will identify a date to resume operations.
There’s been much talk about pork producers needing to make dire decisions to reduce their on-farm numbers, including euthanasia.
“To my knowledge, I’m unaware of any producer in Indiana that’s had to make any final decisions on their animals. Those are all very personal decisions for each farm and something that every farmer will have to decide on their own. If the market could re-open in a couple of weeks, we are backed up everywhere…Getting these markets back open will help alleviate some of those decisions that might have to be made if they continue to stay closed for weeks on end.”
HAT spoke with Merritt prior to reports surfacing about President Trump ordering meat plants to stay open. Read more about that here.
As for the food supply chain, Merritt doesn’t want consumers to panic.
“We know there’s pork in the chain and we know that there is supply. There may be some disruption with some hiccups, but I don’t want consumers to panic that they’re never going to see pork on the grocery store shelves.”