Food Supply and COVID-19: Breaking the Chain
This case uses the impact of the global pandemic on the concentrated meatpacking industry to explore management of supply chain disruptions. COVID-19 had created massive problems at Tyson Foods, with high infection rates among workers, plants closing, and farmers unable to deliver livestock to processing plants. This translated into shortages at grocery stores. Then the president of the United States issued an executive order that meat-processing plants were to stay open to ensure the food supply. At the time, Tyson Foods had decided to close the majority of its facilities, but with the order, the meat-processing giant could remain open and workers could not hold the company liable if they got sick on the job. Tyson Foods struggled with workers getting sick, with creating protocols for clean line work, and with getting products to supermarkets. The material in this case brings the opportunity to explore a vitally important supply chain, the resiliency of that supply chain, and important decisions around fragility, security, fairness, and employees' welfare. In addition, the case allows exploration around how Lean operations leads to efficiencies, but supply chains may not be resilient to disruption. Furthermore, examining John Tyson's public letter in select newspapers provides the opportunity to explore crisis communication and crisis leadership.