KANSAS CITY, MO. – A broad swath of historically cold weather, snowstorms and widespread power outages across much of the United States has caused deadly traffic accidents, stranded motorists, school cancellations and forced many businesses to temporarily close or limit operations, including many meat and poultry processing plants.

Officials with Sanderson Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Tyson Foods Inc. and Cargill confirmed that weather-related closures and shift cancellations have hampered production at many plants as well as interrupting shipments of supplies and livestock.  

Sanderson Farms processing plants in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana did not operate on Feb. 17 and continued forecasted severe weather caused officials to announce plans for Texas and Louisiana plants to remain closed Feb. 18 as well as plants in Collins, McComb, Hazlehurst and Flowood, Miss. The Laurel, Miss., plant’s first shift will also be canceled on Feb. 18, but second and third shifts are planned to operate as scheduled, according to a post on social media.

The company confirmed that at least four broiler houses in Mississippi had collapsed earlier in the week. 

“This experience is similar to a hurricane,” said Joe Sanderson Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, on Feb. 16. “We have experience managing through catastrophic weather events, and this will be no different. Our top priority has been and will continue to be the safety of our employees and independent contract producers, as well as the health and wellbeing of the animals under our care. We will resume normal operations when it is safe to do so, and will, in the meantime, do everything we can to maintain our live production supply chain. We are grateful for the support from local authorities, our customers, and communities, and we will do all in our power to assist in the recovery effort when this weather event ends."

With many plants located in states hit hard by the severe weather and power outages, a Tyson Foods spokesperson confirmed its operations have been affected. 

“We are committed to the safety of our team members and animal welfare during this period of extreme weather. In support of these commitments and energy management efforts to keep the communities in which we operate safe, we have temporarily suspended or scaled back operations at some of our locations,” he said. “We are in close contact with energy companies to minimize disruption and fulfill customer orders.”

A spokesperson with JBS USA’s Pilgrim’s Pride said the poultry company is working with local officials where it operates plants and energy companies to minimize the impact to operations. 

“We have reduced capacity or temporarily suspended operations at some of our facilities,” she said. “We remain focused on team member safety, animal welfare standards and customer needs as we navigate this situation.”

Cargill said the company was not spared by the weather, including its protein, agricultural supply and feed businesses.

“In Texas, our Fort Worth, Round Rock and Waco protein facilities are idled through Thursday (Feb. 18) as the local utility company has curtailed natural gas availability,” a spokesperson said. “This is a situation being evaluated day-by-day and we hope to be running those facilities yet this week. Our feed, protein and ag supply chain networks are running at a reduced capacity or experiencing delays due to transportation challenges and road conditions,” he said. “Teams across our various supply chains have been relentless in their efforts to manage the many moving parts, so we can deliver for our customers and minimize any disruptions to their businesses. We are also doing our part to reduce our energy usage where we can to help states get through this cold snap.”