By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking to reassure meat producers it will keep slaughterhouses staffed with federal inspectors as fears about potential shutdowns due to the new coronavirus hammer livestock prices and fuel concerns about food supplies, meat industry groups said on Monday.
Livestock markets have been hit hard as the spread of the virus threatens workers that companies rely on to process and inspect meat.
Prices for cattle and hogs could fall further if coronavirus cases force companies like Tyson Foods Inc (N:) or WH Group’s (HK:) Smithfield Foods to close slaughterhouses. Shutdowns would remove markets for farmers to sell their animals and could temporarily tighten meat supplies.
The USDA said it would use its authority and “all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing…