The Cargill poultry processing plant in London, Ontario, is being temporarily offline over concerns related to COVID-19.

The company began the process to idle the plant on April 13, stating that it made the decision “out of an abundance of caution as our local workforce deals with the community-wide impacts of COVID-19.”

Working in partnership with the local union, plant employees will receive a weekly guarantee of 36 hours of pay during the temporary shutdown of the Canadian facility.

Cargill stated that it has made testing available to all its employees. In addition, the company is reinforcing the importance of adhering to provincial stay-at-home orders and encouraged any employees who are sick or have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days to stay home. Cargill also offered up to 80 hours of additional paid leave related to COVID-19. 

“As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily idle our London protein facility. This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for families across Canada and ensuring the resilience of our supply chain. But ultimately, our employee’s safety and well-being come first. They are everyday heroes on the frontlines of our food system,” stated Derek Hill, general manager for the London plant

“Our focus is on continuing to keep our employees safe and getting our facility back to normal operations. In addition to continuing implementation of our extensive safety protocols, we are working closely with local health departments, public health officials and other strategic partners in all communities where it operates to help facilitate vaccinations as soon as supplies are available. We want to ensure we are prepared to support public health and facilitate our essential employees receiving vaccinations without jeopardizing the prioritization of essential healthcare workers and others at extreme high risk.”

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Cargill said it is working closely with the Middlesex-London Health Unit and other public health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing and cleaning is done in company facilities and that employees are following quarantine protocols at home. 

Safety measures -- including temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, face coverings, screening between employee stations, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible, offering staggered breaks and reducing carpooling -- have been in place for months at the Cargill plant, the company stated, and those measures will remain in place when the plant resumes full operations. 

According to the Cargill website, the London facility employs about 900 people and processes 100,000 chickens daily, all of which come from farms in southwestern Ontario farms.

Cargill Protein, according to the Poultry International Top Companies Survey, is the 13th largest broiler company in the world. It is also the third-largest turkey company in the United States.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.