Tyson Foods to resume limited production at largest U.S. pork plant

(Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N will resume limited production at its largest U.S. pork plant this week, the company said late on Tuesday, a week after President Donald Trump ordered companies to keep meat-processing plants open to protect the supply chain.

FILE PHOTO: A Tyson Foods pork processing plant, temporarily closed due to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen in Waterloo, Iowa, U.S., April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Brenna Norman

The company closed two pork processing plants, including the Iowa plant, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, further tightening meat supplies after other major slaughterhouse shutdowns.

Tyson’s shares rose about 2% in trading before the bell on Wednesday.

The virus outbreak has forced meat-processing companies, including Smithfield Foods Inc, Cargill Inc, JBS USA, to halt production at about 20 slaughterhouses and plants in North America as workers fall ill.

Some restaurant chains including Shake Shack Inc SHAK.N said their supply chains remain strong, but expect beef prices to increase. Several retailers such as Costco Wholesale Corp COST.O and Kroger Co KR.N put limits on meat purchases and burger chain Wendy's Co WEN.O said it was limiting its menu at some locations.

Trump’s order last week sparked some backlash from unions and lawmakers over the safety of meat-plant workers.

Tyson said on Tuesday all employees returning to work had been tested for COVID-19 and anyone who tested positive would remain on sick leave until allowed by health officials to return to work.

The company also increased short-term disability coverage for employees to 90% of normal pay until June 30, adding it had performed an additional deep clean and sanitization of the entire Waterloo facility while the plant was idled.

The plant, which will resume operations on Thursday, had been working at reduced capacity before it was shut late last month.

As summer approaches and demand for meat increases, plant-based meat burger makers Beyond Meat Inc BYND.O and Impossible Foods are expanding their presence in U.S. retail stores and offering discounts, hoping to replace meat patties with the vegan alternative.

Reporting by Juby Babu and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Shounak Dasgupta