State meat organizations react to President Trump's order to keep meatpacking plants open

JBS beef facility in Green Bay. (WBAY Photo)
JBS beef facility in Green Bay. (WBAY Photo)(WBAY)
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 10:51 PM CDT
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Spokespeople from the Wisconsin Beef Council and the Wisconsin Pork Association are reacting to President Trump’s order to keep meat packaging plants open.

Organization leaders say the President's order hopes to ensure there isn't a consistent backlog of livestock, which is what farmers are struggling with now.

“At the end of the day, our vision of what President Trump is working through getting to a path of reopening these plants in a reasonable fashion,” said Jim Magolski, president of the Wisconsin Pork Association.

Magolski says the pork sector has lost about 45 percent of its packaging spaces due to plant closures.

As a result, producers in Wisconsin are having to find ways to keep livestock longer. Some producers have looked at altering the pigs' diet so they don’t grow as fast, but some are also preparing for euthanasia.

“The supply chain is built for so many head per day, so many head per week. When that backlog is created, it really challenges a place to go with these animals,” said Magolski.

Leaders of the Wisconsin Beef Council say the state's beef industry is projected to lose $180 million as a result of the pandemic.

Cattle ranchers and farmers are facing the same issues with holding on to livestock longer than expected.

The closure of JBS plant in Green Bay, which processes beef, adds to the strain; as it remains closed after workers tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are watching that very closely. We're hopeful that the community in that Green Bay area will be able to return to health and will be able to get those plants back up and operating,” said Tammy Vaassen, executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council.

In a news release, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is urging the President to increase worker testing and access to personal protective equipment.

In the meantime, Vaassen says the best thing people can do during this time is not panic buy meat, but only what your family would reasonably eat in a week or two.

Vaassen says the President’s order is one way to establish balance to a just-in-time production market.

“President Trump's announcement today really is trying to balance both sides of the equation. Ensure that we continue to have beef and other protein available in the grocery stores, as well as, working to find a balance for those employees that play a crucial role in the plants,” said Vaassen.

Spokespeople for Brown County Public Health say they will “review the order to determine what role we will potentially play to comply with the President’s new directives.”

“We would expect any facility involved in the order will also review and act accordingly. We will continue to work together with these facilities to ensure compliance with any new directives,” reads the statement.

Action 2 News reached out to the JBS plant in Green Bay for comment, but did not get a response in time for this report.