By CHRISTINA CARREGA, ABC NEWS
(LANSING) — In response to a recent slowdown of beef and pork production in Michigan, food industry leaders urged consumers not to panic buy as adjustments are made in response to the coronavirus pandemic at processing plants across the state.
The Michigan beef and pork industries said in a joint statement on Saturday that processing plants in the state have decreased production in order to install new safety measures for the employees like plexiglass and social distancing measures.
“A safe workplace and a healthy workforce are the keys to bringing us back to full production,” said Jennifer Holton, the director of communications for Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Ensuring workers have PPE and a safe work environment is priority.”
The safety precautions were put in place to help protect the workers and get an ample stock of beef and pork in grocery stores again.
At the JBS Meat Packaging, which processes beef and pork in Detroit, 60 workers were diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“We are focused on prevention protocols to keep the food supply moving and ensure the health and welfare of employees and animals,” according to the meat industry’s statement. “We applaud the extraordinary steps the industry is taking to ensure worker safety, including COVID-19 testing, temperature checks, use of personal protective equipment and social distancing of employees.”
Additionally, plants have constructed temporary outdoor break areas in tents to allow employees to social distance during break periods. Workers and management team members who have been exposed have been required to stay home. Some plants have required older workers to stay home to protect more vulnerable workers.
The meat producers’ announcement also comes after President Trump signed an executive order to keep meat processing plants open.
In meat processing plants across the country hundred of workers contracted the coronavirus. Specifically, Smithfield Foods plants in St. Charles, Illinois, Martin City, Missouri, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Cudahy, Wisconsin, were temporarily shutdown in April.
There are over 42,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and over 3,800 deaths in Michigan, according to the state’s health department.
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