By Jacob Bunge 

A Minnesota pork-processing plant owned by JBS USA Holdings Inc., forced to close this month due to coronavirus infections, is being used to euthanize thousands of pigs a day.

Covid-19 related shutdowns have closed some of the meat industry's biggest plants, taking offline about one-fifth of U.S. pork-processing capacity and leaving farmers with roughly 100,000 hogs a day that ordinarily would have gone to slaughter.

The pig backup risks overcrowding in barns, while tying up space needed for farmers' next delivery of piglets--forcing farmers across the Midwest to contemplate large-scale euthanasia.

JBS' Worthington, Minn. plant is now operating with a staff of 10 to 20 solely dedicated to killing hogs, handling about 3,000 Wednesday, according to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who held a press conference in the city on Wednesday. JBS said the plant expects eventually to be able to euthanize 13,000 hogs daily. Carcasses will be rendered, composted or buried.

Mr. Peterson said that he is talking with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue about a plan to compensate farmers for hogs that have to be put down. Other shuttered pork plants could also be used as euthanasia sites, Mr. Peterson said.

"I'm hoping that until we get these plants open, we can use these plants to get through the backlog of hogs," he said.

Write to Jacob Bunge at Jacob.bunge@wsj.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 29, 2020 16:41 ET (20:41 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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