Tyson Foods temporarily pauses operations at beef facility in Dakota City

Packages of Tyson food beef meat loaf are reflected in a mirror as they sit on a refrigerator shelf for sale at a grocery store in Encinitas

(Reuters) – Tyson Foods Inc <TSN.N> is halting operations at a beef facility in Dakota City, Nebraska until May 4 to complete a deep cleaning of the plant amid the coronavirus outbreak, a unit of the largest U.S. meat supplier said on Wednesday.

The unit, Tyson Fresh Meats, also said it was screening plant employees for COVID-19 this week and has scaled back production at the facility due to increased absenteeism over the last few weeks.

The facility employs 4,300 people and is among the largest beef processing plants in the United States, producing enough beef in one day to feed 18 million people, according to Tyson.

Some of the largest U.S. slaughterhouses have been shuttered due to outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers forcing the country’s farmers to cull livestock as they run short of space to house animals.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered meat-processing plants to stay open to protect the food supply in the United States, drawing a backlash from unions that said at-risk workers required more protection.

Tyson has also voluntarily idled its pork facilities in Waterloo and Perry, Iowa, and Logansport, Indiana, and a beef facility in Pasco, Washington while it completes cleaning of the facilities and workers there undergo screening.

(Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)