The entire world is now facing what the United Nations is calling the greatest human challenge since World War II: COVID-19. Despite this, poultry and other food industries must press onward.
In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic. The same month, the U.S. saw its number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially. Now more than 100,000 deaths from the illness and more than a million infections are expected. American society, and much of the world, is now living in state of uncertainty and fear never seen in their lifetimes.
For fear of spreading the disease, people around the world are asked to stay at home. Children are out of school. Offices and non-essential business are closed. Economies are going into recession. Millions are out of work. For now, no one is certain how long this lock-down situation will persist and how long the economy will remain frozen.
However, poultry is an essential industry, and it will need to continue to operate to keep the country and the world fed. The two biggest concerns for the poultry industry are the potential of plant closures or supply line disruptions caused by COVID-19.
At the beginning of April 2020, a handful of COVID-19 cases already appeared at chicken processing plants. Nevertheless, plants were not closed for an extended period due to a positive case. It appears local and national health authorities and regulators want to keep plants open, but the situation going forward is not clear. The virus is not known to be foodborne.
More importantly, its unlikely poultry farmers in the U.S. will face any significant logistical challenge concerning the delivery of feed and movement of both chicks and birds. The industry is highly integrated and regulators are supportive of its mission. Where the supply line may be interrupted is the flow of specialty feed ingredients originating from China or Europe.
For now, the mission is clear even if the future is not: Carry on, and keep the line moving.
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