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Beef prices hit a record high and shelves stay empty amid growing fears for the meat supply after workers said they’ll ignore Trump’s order to go back to work

Beef prices hit a record high and shelves stay empty amid growing fears for the meat supply after workers said they’ll ignore Trump’s order to go back to work
  • Meat processing plant workers say they won't go back to work despite Trump's executive order to keep facilities running 
  • On Tuesday, Trump used the Defense Production Act for meat packing plants to stay open amid fears of a food shortage in the coronavirus pandemic
  • Beef prices have hit a record $357.38 per 100 pounds, up 75% from February 
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far  
The price of beef has surged to a record high, plunging the the US meat industry deeper into crisis. 
Latest figures from the US Department of Agriculture reveal that wholesale American beef now costs a staggering $357.38 per 100 pounds. That is a record high and up 75 per cent from a low in February.
The surge in beef prices comes as customers continue to stockpile on product amid nationwide food shortages, leaving store shelves near empty.
The latest figures will be yet another blow to the industry, as meat processing plant employees refuse to return to work despite President Donald Trump's demand that plants stay open.
As of Wednesday wholesale beef now costs $357.38 for every 100 pounds
As of Wednesday wholesale beef now costs $357.38 for every 100 pounds
Many stores have had to enforce a strict one product per customer rule in a bid to stall stockpiling.
Pork prices have also gained 2.5% to the highest since 2017. 
The closure of 13 plants across the country means beef slaughter capacity has plunged 10 percent and pork slaughter capacity by 25 percent. 
On Tuesday, Trump used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing plants as critical infrastructure in a bid to prevent the shortage of chicken, pork and other meat as plants across the country have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. 
However, many employees claim the order puts their lives at stake due to unsafe conditions, a lack of protective equipment and outbreaks that led the nation's three largest facilities shut down. 
The latest figures from US Department of Agriculture reveal that wholesale American beef now costs a staggering $357.38 per 100 pounds
Trump has used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing plants as critical infrastructure in a bid to prevent the shortage of chicken, pork and other meat as plants across the country have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. Above, racks are empty where ground turkey is sold at Western Beef market in Mineola, New York
Near  empty racks of meat due to an increase in demand and growing meat shortages, at Costco in Commack, New York
Near  empty racks of meat due to an increase in demand and growing meat shortages, at Costco in Commack, New York
'All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work,' Donald who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa facility said to CNN. 'I don't think people are going to go back in there.'
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died from the virus and some 6,500 are sick or have been exposed through the workplace.
Meat processing plant workers are voicing their outrage over President Donald Trump's executive order on Tuesday to keep facilities running despite COVID-19 outbreaks
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union condemned Trump's order saying it puts workers at risk. They estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died from COVID-19
'All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can’t see all these people going back into work. I don’t think people are going to go back in there,' Donald who works at Tyson’s Waterloo, Iowa facility said on Trump's order. The plant, above, was shut down on April 22 after 180 workers got infected
All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work. I don't think people are going to go back in there,' Donald who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa facility said on Trump's order. The plant, above, was shut down on April 22 after 180 workers got infected
The union, which represents 1.3million food and retail workers, says at least 13 processing plants have been closed over the past two months. 
Donald, who was only identified by his first name, said he is currently recovering from COVID-19 following a devastating outbreak at the facility that saw at least 180 workers get infected, prompting the plant to shut down on April 22. 
Another worker at the Waterloo, Iowa facility said they supported Trump's measure, but wanted a better understanding of Trump's promised protections. 
'All in all, it can be a good thing if done right. But my faith in this administration has never been strong and is nonexistent currently. I wanna know what these added 'liability protections' are going to be,' the person said.  
An employee at Tyson's Independence, Iowa plant said, 'I just don't know how they're going to do it when there are people dying and getting really sick. Who's to say people are even gonna show up to work?' 
'I'm still trying to figure out: What is he going to do, force them to stay open? Force people to go to work?' Donald said. 
Sign stating restrictions limiting customers to only one package of meat due to increase in demand and growing meat shortages, at Costco in Commack, New York
An employee at Tyson's Independence, Iowa plant said, 'I just don't know how they're going to do it when there are people dying and getting really sick. Who's to say people are even gonna show up to work?' A Tyson plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa pictured above
In Illinois a Smithfield pork plant in Monmouth closed after a 'small portion' of its 1,700 employees caught the virus, but officials say they can't follow the president's order if workers are still ill.
Monmouth Mayor Rod Davies said to the Chicago Tribune: 'I certainly appreciate what the president is trying to do, but it will be a difficult challenge to make that happen when we have a certain number of people who are sick and people around those individuals who are sick.'
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has condemned the president's order saying it puts worker's at risk.    
In the pandemic essential food employees have continued to work, however outbreaks have led to concern over the safety of plant employees. As more plants closed down, worries have grown over US meat supply. 
While some praised the president's effort to preserve the meat supply chain, others slammed the president for trying to ramp up meat production instead of medical supplies. Above, near empty pork racks can be seen at Costco in Commack, New York
While some praised the president's effort to preserve the meat supply chain, others slammed the president for trying to ramp up meat production instead of medical supplies. Above, near empty pork racks can be seen at Costco in Commack, New York
In response to outbreaks at plants major meat processors such as Smithfield, Tyson and others say they've implemented social distancing measures, temperature checks and plexiglass to keep workers safe, but employee say it's not enough.
Three of the country's biggest pork processing plants – Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa have shut down. Together they account for 15 percent of pork production.  
Twitter users have voiced their outrage over the president's act to mandate food plant workers keep working, while failing to prove a sufficient number of masks and testing kits for states in need
Twitter users have voiced their outrage over the president's act to mandate food plant workers keep working, while failing to prove a sufficient number of masks and testing kits for states in need
Twitter users pointed out that the facilities were shut down in the first place due to outbreaks of COVID-19 and that reopening them would only further spread the virus
Trump issued the order on Tuesday saying, 'We're going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that'll solve any liability problems.'
He signed the measure after companies like Tyson Foods considered keeping just 20 percent of their facilities running. Such a move would have reduced the country's processing capacity by 80 percent. 
While some praised the president's effort to preserve the meat supply chain, others slammed the president for trying to ramp up meat production instead of medical supplies. 
'This president had no problem invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure our nation's supply of chicken nuggets but he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to invoke it for masks and testing kits,' one Twitter user said. 
'Disgusting. Forcing people sick with the virus to continue to work and not providing PPE is criminal,' another twitter user added. 
But Trump's order wasn't unwarranted. Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan warned that the mounting number of plant closures would push 'our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply'.
In total the US has about 2,700 slaughter plants, 800 of which are federally inspected. 
In response to Trump's order Smithfield pork supplier said they are 'evaluating next steps to open its currently shuttered facilities and will make announcements when it is ready to resume operations in each location.'
'We can tell you our top priority remains the safety (of) our team members and plant communities while we work to continue fulfilling our role of feeding families across the country,' Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson said on the order. 
How a JBS beef plant worker caught the virus but was forced to keep working and exposed hundreds of his peers 
 The JBS beef processing plant in Greeley, Colorado - which slaughters 5,400 head of cattle per day - has seen more than 100 workers infected with coronavirus, leading to four deaths.
Sergio Rodriguez, 58, a 40-year plant veteran, said that he began feeling sick during his shift on March 20. He said that he had a headache and his muscles ached, but that he kept handing out smocks and gloves to hundreds of workers until his lunch break.
Rodriguez said he then asked his supervisor if he could go home sick, but the supervisor said they needed him on the shift, so Rodriguez kept going.
The night, he said he went to urgent care, was diagnosed with a 104 degree temperature and told to isolate himself. Within days, he had to be hospitalized and was put on a ventilator. He wasn't released from the hospital until April 18.
Rodriguez's daughter, Crystal, who also works at the JBS plant, said that her father 'kept working even though he was sick, because that's what you do at JBS if you want to keep your job.'
She said that because he continued to work that day, he exposed hundreds of workers to coronavirus because he had touched their gear and their hands while passing out their work gear.
JBS said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post that they paid Rodriguez during his sick leave, beginning March 21. The company did not comment on his statement about continuing to work the prior day because he was asked to, but a company spokesperson said that 'No one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons.'

Spread of coronavirus closes meat plants

Some of the facilities that have shut or reduced production as coronavirus spreads:
JBS USA said it would indefinitely close a pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota, that processes 20,000 hogs a day.
JBS closed a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, until April 24. 
Smithfield Foods indefinitely shut a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant that produces about 4% to 5% of U.S. pork. 
Smithfield also shuttered two plants in Wisconsin and Missouri that process bacon and ham.
Tyson Foods Inc closed a hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa. It has since reopened
National Beef Packing Co suspended cattle slaughtering at an Iowa Premium beef plant in Tama, Iowa
 National Beef said it suspended operations at a Dodge City, Kansas, beef plant for cleaning and to install stainless steel partitions 
Aurora Packing Company temporarily closed a beef plant in Aurora, Illinois
JBS shut a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania. It reopened on April 20
Cargill closed a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that produces meat for U.S. grocery stores
The health department in Ogle County, Illinois, on April 17 ordered a Rochelle Foods plant owned by Hormel Foods Corp to close for two weeks
Hormel-owned Alma Foods suspended production at a Kansas plant until May 4 
Sanderson Farms Inc reduced chicken production to 1 million birds a week from 1.3 million at a plant in Moultrie, Georgia.

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