KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, meat and poultry companies are preparing to ride out a massive and life-threatening storm.
Hurricane Sandy is forecast to make landfall the night of Oct. 29, bringing with it sustained tropical storm-force winds, historic surge levels and heavy snowfall in the Appalachians, according to the National Weather Service.
Hurricane Sandy’s impact was being felt in livestock futures before the storm made landfall as the market prepared for potential disruptions caused by the massive storm. Analysts were anticipating the storm would cause shipment delays to the East Coast and impact customer demand for meat. Meat and poultry processors in the Northeast could face downtime due to severe weather, according to news reports.
Three Tyson Foods, Inc. poultry operations in the eastern US have altered production schedules because of heavy rain and strong winds, according to Worth Sparkman, Tyson spokesman.
"Our plant in Temperanceville, Va., is not running Monday or Tuesday, but is scheduled to operate Wednesday," he said. "Meanwhile, our poultry plants in Glen Allen, Va., and New Holland, Pa., are operating today but will have an abbreviated second shift this evening and a late start on Tuesday morning."
Mike Martin, director of communications at Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill, Inc. said the major impact of the hurricane will be to Cargill's customers who experienced a run on meat supplies by customers trying to stock up on food.
“Regarding our eastern meat processing facilities, our turkey production complex in western Virginia is operating normally, although management there is expecting some snow in the surrounding area resulting from Hurricane Sandy, which could cause us to juggle some live turkey movements to our processing plant in Harrisonburg,” Martin said. “We’ve also been repositioning trailers away from the northeast that we use to ship turkey products.
“We have a case-ready facility in Hazleton, Pa., which will not run second shift today or first shift tomorrow,” he added. “Also, management there has empty refrigerated trailers positioned for use if the power fails at the plant and they need to move inventory into the trailers to maintain product integrity.”
Cargill's beef processing plant at Wyalusing, Pa., ran a weekend shift Oct. 27 to produce additional beef products in anticipation of customer needs over the next few days, Martin said. The Wyalusing plant will operate fewer hours on Oct. 30 the company will be monitoring the situation.
“Our top priority is employee safety for those who work at Cargill facilities in the region impacted by Hurricane Sandy," Martin said. “We also place a high level of emphasis on helping our customers to keep fresh product in their meat cases for consumers.
“After the brunt of the hurricane passes, we will resume production and respond to customer needs in a timely manner,” Martin added. "Nevertheless, our response may be impacted by potential infrastructure damage to utilities, roads and other vital elements of the supply chain in the region.”
Smithfield is implementing a comprehensive hurricane preparedness and emergency action plan for the company's hog farms and meat processing plants along the East Coast, according to Keira Lombardo, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications for Smithfield. "Our emergency response team is diligently making sure that appropriate contingency plans are complete, key personnel have been alerted and are on standby and transportation and other emergency response equipment is ready in case it is needed," she said.
All Smithfield processing plants were open Oct. 29. The company's Portsmouth and Smithfield, Va. plants opened two hours late to ensure employee safety. Additionally, treatment lagoons on company owned farms are in compliance with state required freeboard levels and they are handling rainfall associated with Hurricane Sandy without issue, Lombardo said.
“Just as we do every year during the storm season, we have teamed up with emergency response agencies to monitor all available information on weather situations and respond appropriately,” she added. “We are confident that we are as well prepared as we can be given the unpredictable nature of the hurricane season and the information currently available to us.”