Senior VP of Tyson Foods talks meat supply, safeguards now in place amid COVID-19

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The average American eats more than 215 pounds of animal protein a year and hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who work in meat and poultry processing facilities across the country have a uniquely essential role in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Shelbyville Tyson Foods plant is closing Monday for deep cleaning after the Tennessee State Health Department confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the facility.

This comes after the Metro Department of Health confirmed that a total of 298 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Tyson food plant in Goodlettsville.

“We are not afraid of slowing down a plant or idling a plant if that’s what’s necessary to ensure the safeguards we need are in place and our team members feel safe and protected coming to work,” Hector Gonzalez, the Senior Vice President of Tyson Foods ​said to News 2 in an interview Friday.

However, when workers call out sick, it impacts Tyson’s supply.

“Although there are concerns of availability of protein… keeping our team members safe comes first for us and putting food on American tables comes right after that​,” said Gonzalez, “The supply chain has been impacted in a number of different ways, there isn’t a supply change not impacted by this pandemic. They [Americans] will see protein, perhaps not the protein they want or are used to, so it might not be a bad time to try a different kind of cut of meat or a different brand while this supply demand balance starts to normalize​.

As for when it will normalize, Gonzalez says he doesn’t know, adding the pandemic has been hard to predict.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson says it has transformed the way it operates and has put in place a host of safeguards and guidelines that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance at their more than 100 production facilities across the country.

  • Wellness health screening of all team members.
  • Supply of protective facial coverings.
  • Implemented extensive social distancing measures including additional physical barriers.
  • Posted dedicated team members throughout facilities to ensure employees adhere to safety and social distancing protocols.
  • Partnered with Matrix Medical, a leading provider of mobile health clinics, to provide on-site health services to our team members in select locations.

“Every plant is different in terms of measures to ensure safety and health of our team members,” Gonzalez said. “We’re working in collaboration with local and state officials, we’ve shown a tremendous level of transparency and have invited members of community into our plants to witness the number of safeguards put in place and guidelines we’ve established to keep team members safe.”​

As for what comes next, Gonzalez says we must continue to learn.

“I don’t think anyone can take this global health pandemic lightly, I think this is a highly contagious virus and we must continue learning about and I think proactively what we can do to ensure the safety of our workforce. “

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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