SALISBURY, Md. — Perdue Farms has announced that it remains focused on the health and safety of its associates, farmers, customers, consumers, communities, and business partners, as well as ensuring the continuity of its supply chain during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government has deemed food industry workers as mission-critical personnel, which is a huge responsibility that we are committed to fulfilling while keeping our associates safe, Perdue Farms said.
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, we’ve enacted numerous proactive measures to protect our associates during this uncharted time,” said Perdue Farms CEO Randy Day. “For example, at our plants, we are practicing social distancing not only in common areas, such as break rooms and cafeterias, but also on the production lines where possible. Where social distancing isn’t possible, we are rolling out temporary installations of dividers between our associates on production lines.”
The design of these partitions is such that they can be easily customized and installed in many different applications throughout our production facilities where needed. The stainless elements are welded versus bolted to minimize potential pathogen harborage points. Made using either Plexiglas or stretched trash bags, the dividers will be cleaned or replaced, respectively, between every shift.
“We’re extremely proud of our engineering, maintenance, and operations teams, who developed these dividers in a matter of days to protect our associates on the front lines,” Day said “We’ve installed hundreds so far at four different production facilities and are working hard to have them set up in all facilities in the coming weeks.”
“Additional preventative measures include temperature checking at all production facilities, as well as rolling out a disposable mask program which will be available at all production facilities by the end of this week,” he added. “Our primary focus is the health of our people. As a 100-year-old company, we have always known our associates are frontline heroes in America’s food supply chain. As they remain dedicated to their essential roles to help keep our nation fed, we remain committed to supporting and protecting them.”
Utilizing infrared non-contact temperature devices, everyone entering a production facility will have their temperature taken each day by trained testers. Anyone with a temperature at or above applicable health department guidelines will be directed to that facility’s onsite Wellness Center for further screening and instruction.
“We are aware that this global situation is creating stress for many of our associates and their families beyond the immediate health concerns. That is why, in addition to incremental safety precautions in our facilities, we have taken steps to increase compensation for our associates and create flexibilities in our leave policies. For example, because this pandemic has caused many of our associates to cancel their vacation or personal time off (PTO), we have temporarily removed the PTO accrual maximum for all associates until June 1, 2020. This will allow associates to continue accruing PTO weekly/biweekly past the maximum amount, and they will have until June 1, 2021 to utilize the days over their PTO maximum,” the company said.
“As we navigate the challenges posed by this unprecedented pandemic, we will continue to seek additional opportunities to protect and support our associates who are continuing to produce safe, high-quality food for our country,” Day added. “Furthermore, we have established a new page on our company website where we will be posting pertinent updates for the duration of this very fluid situation.”
These efforts are in addition to measures implemented in early March to protect and support Perdue associates, including:
- Proactively increasing stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols.
- Encouraging associates to stay home if they are not feeling well or think they might have been exposed to the virus and extending the hours of many onsite Wellness Centers for the foreseeable future, which are available to all associates and their families free of charge.
- Making existing PTO policies even more flexible during this time to be responsive and provide added relief.
- Waiving the 5-day waiting period of short-term disability for any associate who contracts COVID-19, so that he or she can receive immediate benefits.
- Providing all hourly associates a $1-per-hour pay raise and all Piece Rate associates (such as Perdue Truck Drivers) a $40-per-week pay increase. These temporary increases will be in effect March 23 to May 10, 2020.
- Fully funding the annual profit-sharing Associate Bonus Program and paying it to eligible associates two months early. Normally, associates must be employed on the first day of the fiscal year (on or around April 1, 2019) to be eligible for this bonus, but the company has adjusted this criterion to include applicable associates hired prior to Feb. 1, 2020.
- Providing production associates with chicken products to take home for themselves and their families.
Per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is not known to be a foodborne pathogen. As the agency has stated, “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”
Perdue noted that it continues to regulate strict preventive safety and sanitation standards in all of its facilities.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service continues to inspect all Perdue Farms products, which are made with the highest standards of safety and quality, as well as our production facilities, which are fully sanitized every 24 hours at minimum, the company noted.
For pertinent updates on Perdue Farms’ COVID-19 response visit https://corporate.perduefarms.com/covid19-response/.