RED meat processor JBS Australia has resumed lamb and beef processing at its Brooklyn plant in Victoria after closing for an indefinite period almost three weeks ago due to COVID-19 infections among staff.
JBS Australia director John Berry confirmed that the plant resumed processing on its lamb and beef chains on Monday.
The Department of Health and Human Services told Beef Central it had been working closely with JBS Brooklyn to prepare the business for full resumption of operations and ensuring that all appropriate public health actions have been undertaken.
Industry sources also said the company has resumed purchasing livestock, booking lambs from the weekly Bendigo sheep sales to its Brooklyn plant.
The company closed its Brooklyn plant in mid-August for an indefinite period, commenting that the persistence of community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the directives from DHHS had meant it was impossible to operate JBS Brooklyn in the current COVID environment.
The JBS Brooklyn plant resumption is expected to be welcomed by the lamb industry, as the spring lamb turn-off gains momentum in eastern states.
In other good news, up to Sunday there had been no positive COVID-19 infections reported among the close contacts of a worker at the Australian Lamb Company plant at Colac, VIC. The company closed its afternoon shift while resting of the close contacts was done. All Victorian meat processing plants are currently working under workforce restrictions and improved sanitisation procedures designed to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 disruptions.
JBS today issued the following statement regarding Brooklyn’s re-opening on Monday:
JBS Australia confirms the reopening of its multi-species beef and lamb processing facilities at Brooklyn, having worked closely with both the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions to ensure its workplace is COVID safe.
JBS Southern’s chief operations officer, Sam McConnell, said: “The health and well-being of our employees, and the wider community in which we operate, is of paramount importance to JBS Australia. Management has worked with both DHHS and DJPR, giving us confidence that the processes, procedures, systems and technologies we have in place to manage through the current COVID-19 environment are industry leading.
“We will continue to make sure that the level of precautions we are taking as a business are of the highest standard, allowing JBS Brooklyn to continue to play a vital role in securing Australia’s meat supply chain.”
JBS has maintained open lines of communication with the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union throughout this challenging period, ensuring their support of the processes and procedures implemented.
JBS Southern’s operations manager, Sean Naden, said: “We are pleased with the discussions with all stakeholders including DHHS, AMIEU and Worksafe, and have secured their support for our team members, as it is most important to keep Brooklyn operational in a safe manner.” As the largest meat processing facility in Victoria, JBS understands how important its Brooklyn operations are for its producer partners as well as both its domestic and export customers.
As part of its commitment to those stakeholders, JBS temporarily diverted some livestock to its Riverina operations in NSW to ensure the company could continue to meet its customer requirements during the shutdown period.
JBS looks forward to continuing to work with both DHHS and DJPR to ensure JBS Brooklyn continues to operate safely and is committed to keeping its employees, customers and producer partners informed.