Smithfield Foods in Martin City closes
By Kathy Feist
In a domino effect resulting from the recent shutdown of Smithfield’s South Dakota plant due to COVID-19 cases found there, the Smithfield meat processing facility in Martin City has also shut down.
“The closure of our Martin City plant is part of the domino effect underway in our industry,” says Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, for Smithfield. “Without plants like Sioux Falls running, other further processing facilities like Martin City cannot function.”
The Sioux Falls plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., representing four to five percent of U.S. pork production and employs 3,700 people.
The Martin City plant, which employs over 400 people, produces spiral and smoked hams from cuts of raw meat processed at the Sioux Falls, SD, facility. On April 12, the Sioux Falls plant was closed indefinitely after 518 employees were found infected by COVID-19.
Smithfield Foods is also shutterings its Cudahym WI, plant where dry sausage and bacon are processed. Without the raw materials, neither facility can continue to run.
A small number of employees at both plants have tested positive for COVID-19, according to aSmithfield Foods press release. However, a spokesperson at Smithfield Foods’ Corporate Affairs and Compliance department denies the infection is the primary reason the plant closed. “We don’t have enough raw meat going to Martin City to operate sufficiently,” she emphasized.
Two small tents stand at the entrance to the plant in the parking lot, located at 13825 Wyandotte. A sign reads “While waiting for your temperature check, please maintain 6 feet social distancing requirements.”
Smithfield Foods is already diligent about sanitizing. In a 2016 tour of the plant, members from the Martin City CID reported in its monthly newsletter, “When employees arrive, depending on what area of the plant they work in, they will need to completely cover up and disinfect themselves before entering any area where meat is present. This includes a wipe down of sanitizer on safety helmets and boots, as well as gloves – and more sanitizer on top of the gloves.” Employees are also provided flu shots annually, according to the source.
“We are doing everything in our power to help protect our team members from COVID-19 in the workplace,” stated Sullivan. “This starts with stringent and detailed processes and protocols that follow the strict guidance of the CDC and extends to things like the use of thermal scanning, personal protective equipment and physical barriers, to name a few. We are also being explicit with employees: ‘Do not report to work if you are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. You will be paid,’
Employees will be paid for the next two weeks during which time essential personnel will repeat the rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization that have been ongoing at the facilities.
Smithfield will resume operations in Sioux Falls once it receives further direction from local, state and federal officials. This will also allow the company to bring its Martin City facility back online.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. More information on Smithfield’s COVID-19 response can be found here.
Headquartered in Smithfield, Va. since 1936, Smithfield Foods, Inc. is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach.