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COVID-19

Tyson Foods appoints new CEO while meat industry struggles with continued COVID-19 challenges

Erika Beras Aug 4, 2020
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Food companies like Tyson have not been able to make up all of the ground they lost during the pandemic through grocery store sales. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

Tyson Foods appoints new CEO while meat industry struggles with continued COVID-19 challenges

Erika Beras Aug 4, 2020
Heard on:
Food companies like Tyson have not been able to make up all of the ground they lost during the pandemic through grocery store sales. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Tyson Foods has named a new CEO: Dean Banks. He’s taking over the meat processing giant this fall at a tough time for the industry. The company just reported a steep decline in quarterly profits, down 22% from last year, largely the result of the pandemic.

It’s been a difficult few months for the meat processing industry. Thousands of workers have had COVID-19. Factories closed and reopened. And, according to Ohio State University logistics professor Terry Esper, companies like Tyson have had to repackage food that was meant to supply food service. But that isn’t easy.

“Preparing food for food service is totally different than preparing food for retail,” Esper said. “Food service doesn’t require the same branding, it doesn’t require the same packaging.”

Before COVID-19, people ate out at restaurants, arenas, hotels and university cafeterias. In fact, according to Christopher Muller, a professor of hospitality at Boston University, about half of all meals were served away from home. The big food companies were supplying those places.

And now, “we just haven’t made up for it in the grocery business,” Muller said.

Tyson says one area of weakness is the products it supplies to schools. The company said in an email that problems there may continue depending on states’ reopening plans.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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