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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Integrators Evaluating Future Costs of COVID Control


An article by Kristin Broughton and Nina Trentmann in the June 8th edition of The Wall Street Journal considered the cost of suppressing COVID infection in packing plants. According to the research conducted by the authors, Hormel spent $20 million and Tyson Foods $120 million in efforts to ameliorate the impact of the infection. Costs included bonuses for workers, testing for COVID-19, providing PPE, installing plexiglass divisions in breakrooms and on lines where social distancing was impractical.  Costs did not include lost revenue from reduced throughput and when plants were closed. 


Now that the initial phase of control is over and plants are returning to capacity, future costs are under review.  It is evident that in the absence of an effective vaccine administered to all workers, PPE, social distancing and health surveillance must be continued.


The more progressive protein companies initiated programs of testing and quarantine. testing Tyson Foods commissioned a third-party service provider Matrix Health and Safety Consultants LLC. to perform on-site testing for SARS-CoV-2 the virus responsible for COVID-19.  Tyson estimate that a large hog or beef plant could spend as much as $100,000 to test all their employees. 

Separation at Perdue Farms Plant


Testing all workers over a limited period of time provides an indication of the prevalence rate and identifies infected workers, many of whom are asymptomatic.  It is evident that additional testing over the intermediate term will be necessary since symptomatic workers will have to be identified and their infections differentiated from other respiratory conditions including influenza which is expected to reoccur in the fall.  Infected workers must be quarantined at home to prevent spread within a plant and the community.  Even in facilities with a history of employees showing clinical symptoms, Tyson Foods recently determined that only 25 percent of workers in a specific plant yielded COVID-19 virus.  It is also evident that current COVID-19 antigen tests are subject to an unacceptable 20 percent proportion of false negatives.  This means that asymptomatic but infected workers may be assigned to lines where they can potentially infect susceptible contacts.  In the absence of an effective quantitative serologic test it will not be possible to differentiate between susceptible workers and those having recovered from the infection and are presumably immune.

Protective Measures, Separation and PPE


Clearly experience gained during the past two months will have to be incorporated into future projections of cost especially before an effective vaccine is available.  Hormel Foods, Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods have been at the forefront of prevention and are commended for their transparency and practical approaches to prevention.  Most companies recognize the need to invest in protection as exemplified by the statement of Tyson Foods CFO who stated " if you’re a business you want to make money and the only way to do that is by continuing to operate the plants with healthy employees.  So, what is good for employees is also good for business".
COVID Testing



Copyright © 2020 Simon M. Shane