WICHITA, KAN. – Effective May 4, the Cargill beef processing plant in Schuyler, Neb., will idle production while plant officials collaborate with local and state health officials to ensure the safety of its 2,000 workers and residents in the community in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tentative plans are to reopen the facility the week of May 18. Employees of the plant will receive pay for 36 hours a week per the agreement between Cargill and the union.
Cargill is stressing the importance of social distancing throughout the community and encouraging employees to get tested. The company is urging those who feel sick or have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days to stay home.
“As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily idle our Schuyler protein facility,” said Jon Nash, Cargill Protein, North America Lead. “This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for local families and access to markets for farmers and ranchers. Our focus now is continuing to keep our employees safe and getting our facility back to normal operations as soon as we can.
“This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for local families and access to markets for farmers and ranchers. We care deeply about our employees and their safety. They are everyday heroes on the frontlines of our food system.”
Nash added, “To prevent food waste, we will process nearly 8 million meals-worth of protein currently in our facility as quickly as possible. We greatly appreciate our employees who are working to complete this effort.
“While this location is idled and we adapt to operating during a pandemic, our work doesn’t stop. Cargill provides an essential service to the world – providing the ingredients, feed and food that nourishes people and animals. We are working with farmers and ranchers, our customers and our employees to supply food in this time of crisis and keep markets moving.”
The company said it has taken extra steps to focus on safety and maintain normal operations – including temporary wage increases and bonuses for employees working on the frontlines of the food system. Cargill Protein continues to work closely with local health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed within its facilities.
Additional safety measures include: temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, requiring face coverings, screening between employee stations, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible and offering staggered breaks and shift flexibility. These measures will remain in place when full operation resumes.