How the Coronavirus is Affecting America’s Food and Farming Industry

While we at Crate Free Illinois and many of our partners at other farm animal welfare organizations have already been working hard to inform the public about the many negative impacts of the factory farming model that has become our norm, the effects of COVID-19 have gotten more people paying attention to this unfortunate story than ever before.
From the New York Times and The Guardian to USA Today and Huffington Post, there are a mass of stories being published warning us of the potential health dangers of our industrialized food system. These are important stories that impact us all. As consumers of food, we must be informed of where our food comes from and what it goes through to get to our plates.
We are bringing you this news roundup in order to share some of the most important articles on factory farming we’ve come across over the last couple months.

 

March 19, 2020

Table of Contents

From the National Review: Senator Booker Is Right about Factory Farming

by Spencer Case

 

“…This legislation would curtail concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs), so-called factory farms, in the U.S. Let’s hope it becomes law. Factory farms are an abomination, cruel to animals and a bad deal for humans, too. The sooner we abolish them, the better. Until then, we should take steps to reduce them.”

Let’s turn now to cruelty. Animal advocacy is often associated with causes such as feminism and anti-capitalism — misleadingly, in my view. Certainly left-wing activists concerned about animals could do more to win converts from across the political spectrum. If activists concerned about animals did more to win converts from across the political spectrum, they’d find that conservatives can get on board with the argument that factory farms are cruel. Conservatives in turn should be careful not to reject sound arguments just because they come from the mouths of liberals.

It’s common sense, and not at odds with capitalism, to think that some profitable pursuits are immoral and shouldn’t be legal. Few conservatives, or Americans of any political stripe, would legalize dog fighting even if they knew that doing so would create jobs. When I hear defenses of factory farms based on their alleged economic importance, I can only think that the moral considerations haven’t really sunk in (and neither, in all likelihood, have all the economic considerations).

If you think there should be laws against animal cruelty, then you agree that how we treat animals matters morally and should matter legally. This doesn’t mean that animals have the same moral worth as humans do, just that they’re categorically different from inanimate objects. Dogs, cats, elephants, dolphins, and gorillas all have moral significance of some kind, and so, I think, do chickens, pigs, cows, and other farm animals.

Globally, humans consume about 74 billion land animals per year, nearly all of which are raised and killed in factory farms after living miserable lives. That’s a staggering figure, about ten for every human being on the planet (though they are concentrated in rich countries — the average American consumes the equivalent of 31 animals per year). None of these animals would exist without factory farming, but they’d be better off not existing. We shouldn’t cause this much death and suffering unless we have some extremely compelling reason for doing so…”

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March 24, 2020

From Scientific American: One Root Cause of Pandemics Few People Think About, It’s our seemingly insatiable desire to eat meat

By Paul Shapiro, CEO and cofounder of The Better Meat Co.,the founder of Compassion Over Killing (now Animal Outlook) and a Vice President at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

 

“…It’s easy for those of us in the Western world to shake our heads at the live wildlife markets in China that appear to be the origin of the coronavirus pandemic now paralyzing the globe. Easy, that is, since such a practice is so literally quite foreign to us. (In their defense, at least, China has now banned such markets.)

But what’s more difficult is to be honest with ourselves about what kinds of pandemics we may be brewing through own risky animal-use practices. And while the new coronavirus, crippling as it is, might have a somewhat merciful case fatality rate (proportion of those infected who die) of less than 1 percent, we know that this catastrophe may be just a dress rehearsal for an even more serious pandemic that could take a more gruesome toll—akin to the 1918 global flu pandemic, which originated in Kansas and killed at least 50 million people.

When that day comes, it’s very likely that such a virus will also have its origin in humanity’s seemingly insatiable desire to eat animals, whether wild or domestic. The conditions in which we often farm animals today—crowding tens of thousands of animals wing-to-wing or snout-to-snout—serve as “amplifiers” for viral pandemics.”

Read more

 

March 25, 2020

From the Conservative: Our Monoculture Food Supply Is A Potential Coronavirus Calamity

by Gracy Olmstead

 

The highly consolidated system is fragile, and this is where local farming can step in.

“…As I’ve talked to farmers and local food advocates over the years, there’s always been an argument out there that local-food sovereignty and diversity are not just important for our health, for the environment, or for the soil—but that they are also important to national security. Diverse, strong, and local food sources are integral to the support of the communities that live there, in case global (or even national) crises threaten the normal food distribution systems that so many rely on. The thousands of miles that lie between cities and their food supply represent a danger we need to reckon with.

This week, it’s become clear to many Americans that this highly consolidated, monoculture-based food system is at least somewhat fragile—and thus dangerous in times of calamity. Diversity should not just extend to the types of things we grow in the U.S., but also to the sizes and sorts of agricultural entities we represent…”

Yet here in the U.S., we’ve used federal dollars to weaken this sort of food system. We’ve encouraged agricultural consolidation since the last century, urging farmers to “get big or get out,” fostering homogenization in the array of foods we grow and the types of farms and agribusinesses we represent…”

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April 3, 2020

From The Hill: Reducing Pandemic Risk Begins with Ending Factory Farming

by Leah Garces, president of Mercy For Animals

 

“…According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, and three out of five infectious diseases are spread by animals. The World Health Organization states that “the greatest risk for zoonotic disease transmission occurs at the human-animal interface through direct or indirect human exposure to animals, their products (e.g. meat, milk, eggs…) and/or their environments.”

“Of course, the rest of the world also raises animals for their meat and byproducts, and like the CDC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has tied people’s health to the animals they eat: “Livestock health is the weakest link in our global health chain.”

It doesn’t take an epidemiologist to understand why the health of livestock and, in turn, our own are in peril.

The overwhelming majority of farmed animals are kept in dark, unsanitary, overcrowded factory farms, which stresses their immune systems. Worse, they’re bred primarily for rapid growth and maximum output, not robustness, and their genetic similarity makes them especially likely to transmit disease to one another. Animal after animal, they are churned through the system, often on the same dirty floors, the same stagnant trucks, and the same slaughter lines. This system puts everyone’s health at risk.”

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Pigs crowded

April 6, 2020

From Citizen Truth: Factory Farms Create the Perfect Conditions to Spread Viral Infections Like COVID-19

by Josh Balk of the Humane Society of the United States

 

“…An alarming 75 percent of new or emerging diseases start in animals.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States grow and the government scrambles to address the virus’s spread, it’s important to reflect on its source and discuss the role that consumption of animals plays in the spread of the disease….”

 

April 9, 2020

From Net News: COVID-19 Is Roiling The Beef Industry, But Some Small Producers Are Spared

by Christina Stella, NET News (Nebraska’s PBS and NPR stations) 

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the beef industry; cattle prices and futures have plunged while consumer demand has emptied grocery shelves. But some who sell beef directly to consumers have been spared, and in some cases, business is booming.

Read more

 

April 9, 2020

From Fairr: Smithfield Closure Exposes Fragile Meat Sector’s Short-Sightedness

by Maria Lettini is the Executuve Director of the FAIRR Initiative

 

“…It is too early to tell what the long-term consequences of COVID-19 will be on the animal protein industry, but it is likely that closed facilities are just the start of a bigger impact across the entire protein supply chain.

COVID-19 is the latest, and most significant, in a long string of zoonotic pathogens in recent decades with SARS, H1N1 Swine Flu, MERS, Ebola, Zika and Dengue Fever all being transmitted from animals to humans. And as a prime potential source of future zoonotic pathogens, there is going to be tremendous pressure on the global animal agriculture sector to manage food safety risk in the future. This may include rigorous testing throughout the supply chain, greater transparency, and given the threat of an AMR pandemic, greater regulation to stop the routine use of antibiotics…”

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April 18, 2020

From the New York Times: The Food Chain’s Weakest Link: Slaughterhouses

by Michael Corkery and David Yaffe-Bellany

 

“…Yet meat plants, honed over decades for maximum efficiency and profit, have become major “hot spots” for the coronavirus pandemic, with some reporting widespread illnesses among their workers. The health crisis has revealed how these plants are becoming the weakest link in the nation’s food supply chain, posing a serious challenge to meat production.

After decades of consolidation, there are about 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the United States, processing billions of pounds of meat for food stores each year. But a relatively small number of them account for the vast majority of production. In the cattle industry, a little more than 50 plants are responsible for as much as 98 percent of slaughtering and processing in the United States, according to Cassandra Fish, a beef analyst.

In the 1980s and ’90s, companies like Smithfield, which is now owned by a Chinese pork company, bought out competitors and designed massive plants that could slaughter more than a million animals a year. At the same time, meatpacking became more concentrated in a few states where animal feed is grown, like Iowa and South Dakota.

In the pork industry, the portion of hogs slaughtered in plants that could process more than one million a year rose to 88 percent in 1997 from 38 percent in 1977, according to the Department of Agriculture. A bigger plant meant more profits on the initial investment.

In recent years, critics of the meat industry have blamed that rapid consolidation for the spread of animal diseases like avian flu, as well as the rise of environmentally harmful practices like factory farming. The pandemic has reignited those longstanding concerns….”

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April 20, 2020

From The Guardian: We Have to Wake Up: Factory Farms Are Breeding Grounds for Pandemics

by Jonathan Safran Foer and Aaron S Gross

 

“…The meat that we eat today overwhelmingly comes from genetically uniform, immunocompromised, and regularly drugged animals lodged by the tens of thousands into buildings or stacked cages – no matter how the meat is labeled. We know this, and most of us would strongly prefer it be otherwise. But we would prefer a lot of things in the world that aren’t so and, for most of us, the future of animal farming is low on our list of priorities, especially now. It is understandable to be most concerned with oneself. The problem is, we aren’t doing a good job of being selfish…”

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Factory Farming covid-19 - Battery cages poultry farm

April 22, 2020

From USA Today: Coronavirus at Meatpacking Plants Worse than First thought, USA TODAY Investigation Finds

by Kyle Bagenstose, Sky Chadde and Matt Wynn

 

“…The meatpacking industry already has been notorious for poor working conditions even before the coronavirus pandemic. Meat and poultry employees have among the highest illness rates of all manufacturing employees and are less likely to report injuries and illness than any other type of worker, federal watchdog reports have found.

And the plants have been called out numerous times for refusing to let their employees use the bathroom, even to wash their hands – one of the biggest ways to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

But rather than increase safety and oversight, the U.S. Department of Agriculture relaxed it in the midst of the pandemic. Just this month, the agency allowed 15 poultry plants to exceed federal limits on how many birds workers can process in a minute…”

“…But it’s not just Smithfield. As of Tuesday night, coronavirus infections had spread in at least 48 U.S. meatpacking plants, sickening more than 2,200 people and killing 17, USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found. The outbreaks also have prompted the closure of at least 17 facilities, including that of the JBS pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota, on Monday…”

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April 23, 2020

From Food and Water Watch: Coronavirus Is Big Ag’s Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Thanks To EPA

by Tarah Heinzen

 

“…In its recent COVID-19 compliance memo, EPA announced it will not enforce “routine compliance monitoring and reporting” violations that polluters claim were caused by COVID-19. This may sound like it only covers paperwork oversights by understaffed and overstretched companies, but in reality it guts enforcement and will likely mean more pollution….”

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April 24, 2020

From HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher: America’s Wet Markets  

In his editorial New Rule, Bill contends that humans can’t trash the environment – including animals – and not have it come back and kill them.

“America’s factory farming is just as bad as a wet market and just as despicable for our health…Americans should not get that high and mighty about wet markets while we are doing this [shots of crammed animals on factory farms].

…they’re on top of each other, they can’t move, they’re stressed out. I’ve seen airports treat luggage better than we treat animals….”

 

 

April 22, 2020

From VOX: The Meat We Eat is a Pandemic Risk, Too

by Sigal Samuel

 

“…It’s easy to point the finger at these “foreign” places and blame them for generating pandemics. But doing that ignores one crucial fact: The way people eat all around the world — including in the US — is a major risk factor for pandemics, too.

That’s because we eat a ton of meat, and the vast majority of it comes from factory farms. In these huge industrialized facilities that supply more than 90 percent of meat globally — and around 99 percent of America’s meat — animals are tightly packed together and live under harsh and unsanitary conditions.

“When we overcrowd animals by the thousands, in cramped football-field-size sheds, to lie beak to beak or snout to snout, and there’s stress crippling their immune systems, and there’s ammonia from the decomposing waste burning their lungs, and there’s a lack of fresh air and sunlight — put all these factors together and you have a perfect-storm environment for the emergence and spread of disease,“ said Michael Greger, the author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.

To make matters worse, selection for specific genes in farmed animals (for desirable traits like large chicken breasts) has made these animals almost genetically identical. That means that a virus can easily spread from animal to animal without encountering any genetic variants that might stop it in its tracks. As it rips through a flock or herd, the virus can grow even more virulent.

Greger puts it bluntly: “If you actually want to create global pandemics, then build factory farms.”

In the US, where meat has become entwined with national identity and the average citizen consumes more than 200 pounds of meat a year, most people are probably not going to give up meat entirely. So it’s worth asking: Is there a way to do livestock farming that diminishes the threat of zoonotic disease? And perhaps, in the process, also diminishes other problems with industrialized farming, like the impact on climate change and cruelty to animals?

The answer is yes. We can absolutely have a meat production system that is better for human health, the climate, and animal welfare — if we’re willing to abandon factory farming….”

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April 22, 2020

From Time: ‘The Food Supply Chain Is Breaking.’ Tyson Foods Warns of Meat Shortage as Plants Close Due to COVID-19

by Sanya Mansoor

 

“…Millions of animals —chickens, pigs and cattle— will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities,” Tyson writes. “The food supply chain is breaking.”

“…However, the USDA has also been criticized for letting millions of pounds of food rot while food banks struggle to keep up with sky-rocketing demand. The Agriculture Department lagged behind other federal agencies in its coronavirus response, taking more than a month to “make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables — despite repeated entreaties,” Politico reported Sunday…”

“…Tyson Foods and other big meat producers, like JBS USA and Smithfield Foods, have come under fire for worker illnesses and failing to provide adequate protective gear…”

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April 25, 2020

From CBS2 Chicago: ‘It’s Dire Right Now’: Illinois Farmers Could Face Crisis As More Meat-Packing Plants Close Due To COVID-19

 


 

May 1, 2020

From Food and Water Watch: The Next Pandemic Could Easily Come From Our Factory Farms

by Mckenzie Aime

 

“…The conditions in China’s wholesale wet markets are very similar to those in factory farms here in the U.S. Factory farms, as the name implies, are essentially animal factories. These facilities cram thousands of animals into tightly packed spaces; these conditions cause elevated stress responses in animals. In the warehouse-like structures animals receive little, if any, sunlight or fresh air. Factory farms have also bred animals that are virtually genetically identical, making mass production possible of all the inputs from feed to barn construction. We raise animals for food on a modern day assembly line.  But those conditions make them prime targets for the spread and incubation of disease. And when one animal in a factory farm gets sick, the pathogen can rapidly spread — killing hundreds or thousands of animals and potentially jumping to humans. This is exactly what it means when a disease is “zoonotic….”

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May 3, 2020

From Now This Politics: The Humane Society on COVID-19 and Factory Farms

‘Science aligns with common sense’ — Humane Society VP Josh Balk explains how our treatment of animals is directly linked to the spread of diseaseIn US news and current events today, With COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc on our lives, it’s natural that we’re focused on the here-and-now. But to lower the risk of future pandemics, we have to understand the cause of this one, and ones before: our treatment of animals. Humane Society VP Josh Balk breaks down the link between animal abuse and disease spread.

 

 

May 6, 2020

From Huffington Post: The Coronavirus Could Change The Way We Eat Meat

by Stephen Robert Miller

 

“…While the industrial market is facing ruin, small-scale producers are seeing a heyday. In the U.S., more than 167,000 farms sell $8.7 billion worth of meat and produce directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With some farmers markets closed due to the pandemic, many have shifted their businesses online, and farms across the country report that customers are following in droves.”

The scale and quantity-over-quality practices of factory farming have allowed large packing companies to keep costs down and maintain a stranglehold on the system. Woe to those who try to compete.

Over the past months, “a lot of people have been exposed to a new way of thinking about food,” Scariot said. For some consumers, at least, the crisis has shown that meat doesn’t actually come from a store. The question is whether the change in perspective will outlive the pandemic…”

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May 7, 2020

From The National Review: The Human Cost of ‘Culling’ Livestock and ‘Depopulating’ Farms

by Matthew Scully

 

“…Unfolding this month, in the background of the pandemic, is a “depopulation” of livestock farms — another surreal new term of the crisis to add to our list. It’s as detached and colorless a word as the industry could find for gassing, suffocating, or otherwise doing in the millions of animals whose appointments at the abattoir have been canceled by coronavirus outbreaks and who therefore, in the refrain of news coverage, have “nowhere to go.”

“…The system has its own unbending schedules and logic. No sheltering in place for factory-farmed pigs, cows, chickens, and other creatures when yet more troubles appear. When they can’t die on a kill line, because a slaughterhouse has closed, that just means they have to die somewhere else to get out of the way — even if, as in this case, they’re all bound for landfills, blast furnaces, or burial pits….”

“…Among techniques discussed in that call, and left for farmers to apply according to cost and “depopulation efficiency,” were gunshot and electrocution (“preferred” methods), “manual blunt force trauma” (beating animals to death with blows to the head, also “preferred”), ventilation shutdown and poisoning by carbon monoxide or sodium nitrate (these approaches “permitted in constrained circumstances”). When the pork producers’ lead veterinarian turned to the details of setting up a “gas chamber,” you could understand how disoriented a rational person would feel….”

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May 7, 2020

From The Hill: Booker Renews Push to Phase Out Factory Farming by 2040 After Pandemic Hits Meatpacking Plants

by J. Edward Moreno

 

“…Booker, the only vegan in the Senate, originally introduced the bill in December. On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced she is co-sponsoring the bill, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is introducing a companion bill in the House.

The legislation directly targets multinational meat producing giants, such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and JBS, all of which had severe coronavirus outbreaks among workers in their meatpacking plants in the last month that have led to fears of a national meat shortage.

The bill phases out factory farming, otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), by 2040 and imposes stricter environmental standards in the interim. Booker said that having CAFOs at the center of the U.S. food supply chain put the country in a vulnerable position even before the pandemic…”

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May 8, 2020

From Farm Forward: We Have to Wake Up: Factory Farms Are Breeding Grounds for Pandemics

 

Read More

 

May 11, 2020

From the Washington Post (Opinion): Meat Is Not Essential. Why Are We Killing For It?

By Jonathan Safran Foer

 

“…The answer lies in how we have let agribusiness effectively normalize worker exploitation, and the mercenary skill we sometimes employ to deny or forget our support for that industry’s actions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking has long been the nation’s most dangerous occupation. It is not just the nature of the job; there is systemic disregard for the safety and dignity of the people working in the meat industry. An in-depth report by Oxfam documents that, for years, workers in U.S. poultry slaughter plants — including those operated by Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride — commonly wear adult diapers or simply urinate on themselves because bathroom breaks are routinely denied by supervisors under threats of retribution…”

“…Meat is not essential and slaughterhouse workers in diapers are not brave. They are being oppressed and, in a free society, each of us who continues to underwrite that abuse bears some of the responsibility. Nor is this problem limited to the time of covid-19. This pandemic is like a lightning strike that has, for a brief moment, illuminated for all of us the values that guide factory farm corporations. Are these also to be the values that determine what we feed ourselves and our families? If not, what can one person hope to do?…”

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From Food Dive (Opinion): Pandemic On Our Plates: The High Health Risks Of Industrial Animal Agriculture

by Dr. Shivam Joshi and Josh Balk

 

“…Forcing animals into extreme confinement not only causes them months, sometimes years, of suffering, it also presents a multitude of public health issues. Factory farming, which relies on animals being held in close proximity, facilitates pathogen movement, including through direct contact between animals, waste and airborne dust, and between farms on equipment and vehicles. A paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on zoonotic risks suggests that intensive farm animal confinement not only promotes disease transmission, but it also allows pathogens to evolve and provides them a higher chance of survival. Further, because animals packed into warehouses — especially chickens raised for meat — are more susceptible to bacterial spread, producers sometimes feed animals a diet laced with antibiotics. It’s been reported in recent years that as much as 75% of all antibiotics used in the United States have gone to animal agriculture, not as medicine for humans. This startling use foments antibiotic resistance and reduces the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs in humans…”

“…The time to begin phasing out the intensive confinement systems in which we raise billions of animals is now. We need to accelerate society’s direction of reducing demand for meat from animal factory farms and shift instead to more of an emphasis on healthier — and safer — plant-based foods. As our population grows, plant-based foods are also more sustainable and affordable for societies globally…”

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May 12, 2020

From the NY Review of Books: The Sickness in Our Food Supply

by Michael Pollan

 

“…For our society, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ebb tide of historic proportions, one that is laying bare vulnerabilities and inequities that in normal times have gone undiscovered. Nowhere is this more evident than in the American food system.”

“…As the industry has grown steadily more concentrated since the 1980s, it has also grown much more specialized, with a tiny number of large corporations dominating each link in the supply chain. One chicken farmer interviewed recently in Washington Monthly, who sells millions of eggs into the liquified egg market, destined for omelets in school cafeterias, lacks the grading equipment and packaging (not to mention the contacts or contracts) to sell his eggs in the retail marketplace.2 That chicken farmer had no choice but to euthanize thousands of hens at a time when eggs are in short supply in many supermarkets…” 

“…Once pigs reach slaughter weight, there’s not much else you can do with them. You can’t afford to keep feeding them; even if you could, the production lines are designed to accommodate pigs up to a certain size and weight, and no larger. Meanwhile, you’ve got baby pigs entering the process, steadily getting fatter. Much the same is true for the hybrid industrial chickens, which, if allowed to live beyond their allotted six or seven weeks, are susceptible to broken bones and heart problems and quickly become too large to hang on the disassembly line. This is why the meat-plant closures forced American farmers to euthanize millions of animals, at a time when food banks were overwhelmed by demand…

“…But to be comprehensive, this post-pandemic politics would also need to confront the glaring deficiencies of a food system that has grown so concentrated that it is exquisitely vulnerable to the risks and disruptions now facing us…”

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May 13, 2020 

From Eater.com: It’s Still the Jungle Out There

by Caleb Pershan

 

“…For Thompson, as for many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a bright light into one of the darkest recesses of the country’s food system: industrial meat processing, comprising slaughter and packing — an incredibly streamlined and consolidated industry controlled by a small number of companies and reliant on low-paid, immigrant labor. It’s dangerous work on a good day, with steadily increasing production speeds, injury rates twice the national average, and illness rates 15 times normal rates, according to the National Employment Law Project…”

“…Recent plant closures highlight the meat industry’s decades of consolidation into an oligopoly of four companies: Tyson, JBS (a subsidiary of a Brazilian company), Cargill, and Smithfield Foods (a subsidiary of a Chinese company). According to Cassandra Fish, an industry analyst and former Tyson risk management executive, about 50 meat processing plants are responsible for as much as 98 percent of all U.S. meat slaughter and processing. The arrangement has driven prices downward — meat prices in the EU were twice as high as of 2017 — but created a system that’s vulnerable to disturbances like COVID-19, says Christopher Leonard, author of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business. “All these animals have to pass through an extremely narrow bottleneck….”

“…Commercial pigs like Sorenson’s are raised inside barns their whole lives, and grow about two and a half pounds a day. If they’re not sent off to slaughter, they get too large for their quarters — roughly 7.2 to 8.7 square feet per animal, according to an industry publication’s recommendation. Slaughterhouses won’t accept animals if they get too big, and they can even become too heavy for their own legs. There’s nothing to do but euthanize them. In Minnesota, 10,000 hogs are being euthanized per day, Department of Agriculture officials tell the Star Tribune. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it will establish a National Incident Coordination Center “to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19,” including depopulation and disposal methods…”

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May 14, 2020

From the New York Times: Meat Plant Closures Mean Pigs are Gassed or Shot Instead

by Michael Corkery and David Yaffe-Bellany

 

“One Minnesota hog farmer sealed the cracks in his barn and piped carbon dioxide through the ventilation system. Another farmer has considered gassing his animals after loading them into a truck. And a third shot his pigs in the head with a gun. It took him all day.

These are dark days on many American pig farms. Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the Midwest have created a backlog of pigs that are ready for slaughter but have nowhere to go. Hundreds of thousands of pigs have grown too large to be slaughtered commercially, forcing farmers to kill them and dispose of their carcasses without processing them into food….”

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May 21, 2020

From USA Today: Cheap Chicken, Beef Came At A Cost. How American Meat Plants Bred Coronavirus Hot Spots.

by Sky Chadde, Kyle Bagenstose, Veronica Martinez Jacobo and Rachel Axon

 

“…As of May 20, officials have publicly linked at least 15,300 COVID-19 infections to 192 U.S. meatpacking plants, according to tracking by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. At least 63 workers have died.

In April, USA TODAY found that 1 in 3 of the nation’s 405 largest meatpacking plants operated in a county with a high rate of COVID-19 infections. This week, the data shows that trend has expanded to more than half of those plants….”

“The warning signs were there for decades.

Worker advocates and government watchdogs have long cited endemic problems that thwart workplace safety. Among them: Workers are forced to slaughter and process animals at breakneck speeds. They get infrequent bathroom breaks. They crowd tight spaces. They are discouraged from taking sick time. They lack personal protective gear.

Despite these red flags, the industry has continued to operate with little safety oversight…”

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From the New York Times (Opinion): The End of Meat is Here

by Jonathan Safran Foer

 

“…We cannot claim to care about the humane treatment of animals while continuing to eat meat regularly. The farming system we rely on is woven through with misery. Modern chickens have been so genetically modified that their very bodies have become prisons of pain even if we open their cages. Turkeys are bred to be so obese that they are incapable of reproducing without artificial insemination. Mother cows have their calves ripped from them before weaning, resulting in acute distress we can hear in their wails and empirically measure through the cortisol in their bodies…”

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May 22, 2020

From Newsweek (Opinion): Will Coronavirus Be What Finally Kills Factory Farming? 

by Em Heppler and Michael Shank

 

“…Slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants are also among the worst COVID-19 hot spots for humans. Some of the largest outbreaks in North America occurred in meatpacking plants. 

Take a look at the financial markets, for example. Investors are taking or keeping their money out of the factory farming industry, in part, because of mounting concerns about its role in disease transmission. Investors are recognizing that the spread of diseases constitutes a significant risk to their portfolios. COVID-19 is on the expanding list of diseases that troubles the factory farming industry and thus investors. Animal-borne diseases, such as SARS, avian flu, swine flu and the coronavirus are becoming more common, costly and unmanageable….”

Read More

More:

John Hopkins Center for Livable Future: CLF and the Food Systems Response to Covid-19

All Creatures: Five Deadly Diseases Linked to the Meat and Dairy Industries

 

 

About the Author:  Lisa Lubin is an Emmy-award winning video producer and consultant, and writer and photographer. She’s a life-long animal lover from New Jersey who’s been living in Chicago for 20+ years. Lisa has also volunteered at PAWS and Feline Friends Chicago as a cat foster. She joined the Crate Free Illinois team in August 2016 and is now the executive director, website editor, and volunteer coordinator.  

 

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