U.S. Beef Packers Ante Up Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Processors have increased pay for workers during COVID-19 crisis. ( Tyson )

Some American beef packing companies are adding to worker's pay and sick leave in response to the COVID-19 emergency. For cattle feeders, Tyson Foods and National Beef Packing Co. have announced plans to increase payments for fed cattle procured from suppliers.

Cargill told workers at all U.S. and Canadian production facilities they would receive an additional $2 per hour for shifts worked between March 23 and May 3. Those employees will also be eligible for a one-time $500 bonus for working all their shifts until May 3, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan confirmed in an email to Drovers.

“Our employees are working hard to take care of the nation, so we are taking extra steps to take care of them and their families,” Sullivan wrote. “This includes steps like PTO (paid time off), incentive pay and other health and safety measures. The program begins this week and runs until May 3 to recognize their important contribution during these dynamic times. We will be monitoring the situation and adjusting as needed. Together we are working hard to keep our food system strong and markets open for farmers and ranchers.”

Other packers have also increased worker pay. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union – which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and processing workers – announced agreements the union has reached to increase pay and benefits for workers.

According to UFCW, all JBS employees who are UFCW members will receive a $600 bonus on May 15th.

Employees of National Beef are receiving a $2 increase in hourly pay between March 16 through May 10, two weeks paid leave if they are required to quarantine, waiver of co-pays for coronavirus medical care, and the ability to take time off for any coronavirus-related absences.

Hormel employees are receiving a $300 bonus for working during this time frame.

JBS employees who are UFCW members will receive a $600 bonus on May 15th.

Last Friday (Mar. 20) Tyson Foods told cattle feeders it would add $5 per cwt. to all cattle it purchases during the week of March 23.

National Beef told its cattle feeder suppliers it would pay $113 for all cattle it procured the week of March 16 – 20. Some cattle sold Monday at $105, with more at $110 on Wednesday, before closing the week at $113.

On Monday, Tyson Foods gave away 40,000 pounds of chicken to hundreds of people in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the give-away was in 10-pound variety bags of pre-cooked chicken strips in several flavors, pre-cooked popcorn chicken, buffalo-style chicken wings, uncooked leg quarters and other selections.

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