More Than 700 Food Plant Employees Are COVID-19 Positive in Wisconsin. Those Are Just The Ones We Know About.

Private companies, county health officials are not reporting numbers of COVID-19 positive workers.



By Jonathon Sadowski

May 4, 2020

Private companies are not always providing numbers. Neither are county health officials.

Brown County has the worst of it, but meatpacking facility coronavirus outbreaks are cropping up throughout Wisconsin.

Employees at meatpacking and other food plants are required to work in close proximity on a line, setting up a recipe for the virus’ spread. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration confirmed to UpNorthNews last week that it is investigating 74 coronavirus-related workplace complaints in Wisconsin. Nine of those are at meat processing facilities.

UpNorthNews filed an open records request to obtain the full list of workplaces OSHA is investigating in Wisconsin, but the administration has not yet provided the list.

At least 743 food plant employees in Wisconsin have tested positive for COVID-19, according to analysis of information reported by news media, private companies, and health officials.

Here are all the food plants in Wisconsin that have confirmed coronavirus cases in the workforce:

  • Patrick Cudahy/Smithfield Foods in Cudahy: Eighty-six of 1,000 employees are currently positive, according to a press release from the Cudahy Health Department. Just over 500 tests have been administered, and the plant has been closed since April 15.
  • Echo Lake Foods in Burlington: A worker’s husband appeared in a Voces de la Frontera-hosted press conference last week. The husband said his wife has tested positive for coronavirus. The company could not be reached for comment to confirm that case or additional cases.
  • Saputo Cheese in Green Bay: The company confirmed in a statement that “several employees” were COVID-positive as of May 1. The company did not provide an exact number when asked. The National Guard targeted Saputo employees for testing last week. Brown County, which could release the number, is refusing to do so.
  • Hansen Foods in Green Bay: The National Guard targeted Hansen Foods for testing. The company has declined to comment, and Brown County — which has access to the number — has deemed it too time-consuming to release public information about which food plants and nursing homes have confirmed cases.
  • Birds Eye Foods in Darien: As of April 29, 104 employees were infected, according to WTMJ. The company employs about 800, according to the Janesville Gazette.
  • JBS Packerland in Green Bay: There were 290 employees confirmed to be infected as of May 1. Brown County has stopped releasing the numbers and is instead relying on the company to release them. A JBS spokesman did not respond Monday to a request for the most recent figures.
  • American Foods Group in Green Bay: There were 203 infected as of May 1. Brown County has stopped releasing the numbers and is instead relying on the company to release them. An American Foods spokeswoman did not respond Monday to a request for the most recent figures.
  • Salm Partners in Denmark: There were 45 coronavirus-positive employees as of Tuesday, according to a company spokeswoman. That’s out of 600 total workers. The company has consistently released daily updates.
  • Wisconsin Cheese Group in Monroe: Six workers were infected as of Sunday, according to the Monroe Times. On Tuesday, 167 additional employees were tested; results are not yet available.
  • Richeliu Foods in Beaver Dam: Eight of 420 workers tested positive, according to the Fond du Lac Reporter. The company , which manufactures pizzas, dressings, and sauces, has closed to test all employees.




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