Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Some U.S. meatpackers announce vaccine plans, but many workers still waiting

Stock MarketsMar 02, 2021 07:11AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Small meat processors backlogged as virus idles big plants 2/3

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) - COVID-19 vaccines are making their way into the arms of U.S. meat and agriculture workers, but companies and union officials say progress needs to be faster after coronavirus outbreaks idled slaughterhouses and sickened thousands of workers.

Vaccinating food workers could help prevent further production disruptions that sent meat prices soaring in spring 2020 and forced retailers like Kroger (NYSE:KR) Co to restrict customers' purchases of ground beef and other products.

Nationwide, 22,000 meatpacking workers have been infected or exposed to the virus, and 132 have died, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International union.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee in December recommended frontline food and agriculture workers receive access to vaccines ahead of people aged 65 to 74 and younger Americans with high-risk medical conditions.

But many states prioritized older residents, who account for the majority of U.S. COVID-19 fatalities, and other essential workers like teachers.

Companies are constrained by limited supplies and regulations in individual states and cannot purchase vaccines directly from drugmakers.

"Priorities have shifted in the past two months in a range of states, and that has lowered the priority status of our critical and essential employees," said Keira Lombardo, chief administrative officer for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world's biggest pork processor.

South Dakota, where WH Group (OTC:WHGLY)'s Smithfield runs a massive pork plant in Sioux Falls, may not begin vaccinating food and agriculture workers until April, according to state plans. It will first give shots to teachers, funeral home workers and people under 65 with underlying health conditions.

More than a third of Smithfield's 3,700 employees in Sioux Falls had tested positive for the virus by mid-June 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. BJ Motley, president of the local UFCW union, said workers are asking when they can be vaccinated, but the company has not provided information about scheduling shots.

"All we can do is keep pushing," he said.

Smithfield said it told employees the vaccine will be distributed at the Sioux Falls plant once supplies are available.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon, South Dakota's health secretary, said the state's vaccine plan was developed in accordance with CDC guidelines. Vaccine allocation from the federal government is the biggest challenge facing states, she said.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture told Reuters it is "again contacting governors in each state to encourage they prioritize food workers for vaccinations, as public health agencies have recommended."

The United States has been shipping millions of doses of vaccines to states each week, but demand so far has outpaced supplies. By the end of March, vaccine producers plan to ship tens of millions more shots. The supply will be further helped by Saturday's U.S authorization of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)'s one-shot vaccine.

Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), the nation's largest meatpacker by sales, said on Monday that many of its 13,000 Iowa employees would start getting the vaccine this week. About 2,000 Tyson employees out of 100,000 hourly workers received vaccines as of Feb. 25.

Rival meat processor JBS USA plans to shut a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, on March 5 and 6 for vaccinations, after almost 400 worker infections there. The local UFCW union that represents plant employees said the union secured on-site access to shots by working with the state and National Guard.

JBS and affiliated chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp said about 8,500 employees in eight states, including Colorado, will have access to vaccines this week.

Cargill Inc will work with healthcare providers to vaccinate employees at a beef plant in Kansas and at offsite locations in Nebraska and Michigan, according to the company. At chicken processor Perdue Farms, about 800 employees out of 21,000 had received one shot by Thursday.

Julie Anna Potts, president of the trade group North American Meat Institute, said last week she would like the federal government to be more involved with getting vaccines to meatpacking workers.

"Unfortunately it's just been kind of a potluck at the state level," she said.

Worker vaccinations are also progressing slowly in the wider food industry, said Mike Gruber, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Consumer Brands Association. The group represents food manufacturers like Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) and estimates 300 of its 1.7 million essential workers have received a shot.

Some state officials are also concerned about fruit and vegetable workers.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said temporary agricultural workers are beginning to arrive from Mexico and other countries under the H-2A visa program without being eligible for shots. They often live in group housing, which can facilitate the spread of the virus, and move from state to state to harvest seasonal crops.

"We really wanted to get these workers vaccinated before they were spread out across the state," Troxler said, "but it doesn't look like that's going to happen."

Some U.S. meatpackers announce vaccine plans, but many workers still waiting

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (1)
Stephen Be
Stephen Be Mar 02, 2021 7:45AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
The rest of the RED PARTY PLAN to eliminate Democracy. First it was VOTER SUPPRESSION. NOW it's VOTER EXECUTION!!!! 500,000 DEAD and counting. Every lost soul a Republican Party CASUALTY.  PROSECUTE THEM ALL!!! For GENOCIDE!
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Mar 02, 2021 7:45AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Yes, you forgot to mention that virus escaped Chinese lab.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email