U.S. slaughterhouses under pressure to remain open
Livestock markets have been hit hard as the spread of the virus threatens workers that companies rely on to process and inspect meat.
Prices for cattle and hogs could fall further if coronavirus cases force companies like Tyson Foods Inc or WH Group's Smithfield Foods to close slaughterhouses. Shutdowns would remove markets for farmers to sell their animals and could temporarily tighten meat supplies.
The USDA said it would use its authority and "all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations" during the outbreak.
Agency officials told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association that the USDA will ensure it has replacement inspectors ready to staff slaughterhouses if necessary, said Colin Woodall, chief executive of the trade group. Farmers and industry groups said there were no confirmed shutdowns.
"We need to make sure that we're keeping the beef flowing," Woodall said. ■