Mega Packing Plants: They Distribute More COVID-19 to the Public Than Meat Supplies
April 23, 2020 (EIRNS)—The national map of the mega meatpacking houses (beef, pork, poultry) now shut down, or only partially open, coincides directly with counties with high incidence of COVID-19 cases. The plants function as localized hot zones, given that the working conditions are notoriously bad—crowded, low pay, and grueling. Besides employees who have the virus, dozens of others are not showing up for work, out of fear. Meat processing has one of the highest rates of illegal workers of any sector in the economy.
The destructuring of U.S. meat slaughtering over recent decades into a very few mega-plants, owned by a handful of cartel companies, was a guaranteed disaster as far as reliability of food supply, working conditions, and public sanitation are concerned. Now, the sector is spreading the virus, and reducing meat supplies.
Besides giant plants shut in South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, and Minnesota, eyes are on the huge JBS Packerland facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the national situation.
The paper summarized the results of a study of the pandemic and meat packing by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA Today: “More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest....
“The facilities represent more than one in three of the nation’s biggest beef, pork, and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found.
“And while experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,700 workers at 60 plants as of Wednesday afternoon, there are fears that meatpacking plants will become disaster zones.”
A number of smaller plants also shut or went on partial work this week: The Smithfield (hog) plant is down in Martin City, Missouri. Smithfield in Cudahy, Wisconsin is only partially operating as of Wednesday. In western Michigan, the JBS (beef) plant is shut.
This situation is wreaking havoc on farmers and ranchers. They have started lining up standby plans in the Farm Belt states for hog euthanasia. In Canada, farmers have started this in the eastern provinces, according to the Canadian Pork Council today.