Beginning early April, the ongoing and expanding detection of COVID -19 infecting workers within the 6 mega-processors of the U.S. meat sector heightens worry that Americans may face meatless dinner tables in the immediate future. The virus has infected workers at meat processing facilities in seven states: Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa and South Dakota. (On May 1, an online CDC report* notes that 19 states account for 115 poultry and meat processing facilities having reported COVID-19 infection among workers in this sector.) Especially troubling is the doubt that conscientious measures to halt the spread, and entirely annihilate the deadly contagion can be effectively achieved and in place before flu season begins this coming fall.
Notorious for unhealthy, poorly kept work conditions, the labor force of the decades-long de-structured meat packing plants in particular and the nation’s Farm belt, in general, continue to reel from effects of a disease which may present without usual respiratory symptoms. Rampant COVID-19 infection in the food processing labor force may be “The Perfect Storm,” with a greater possibility of non-linear co-infection that extends beyond the assembly-lines of busy processing plants into the homes of this sector’s poorly nourished, low-wage earners usually compelled to settle for life in overcrowded sub-standard housing.
These armies of underpaid workers of the meat industry and millions of hungry, would-be eaters face an array of common, despicable enemies: wage- gouging food cartels, a deadly viral pandemic, Wall St.-London’s hopelessly bankrupt financial system and, an inept, ratcheted-down healthcare system. This situation has far surpassed the point of complaints, media exposés which become masked in half-hearted, go-through-the –motion band aid compromises never to eradicate the problem. Now, more than ever is the moment to act!
A few examples from the past month argue the urgency of our clarion call to YOU for action:
IOWA – April 2020 – this state accounts for 25-30% of nation’s pork supply: price-gouging, and lack of processing facilities, according to Governor Reynolds, continue to compel farmers to euthanize hogs;
Tyson’s, one of the top five largest meat packers in U.S., closed its Waterloo, IA. hog plant, which employed 2800 people, the cartel’s largest plant in the country.
National Beef, a huge beef processor, reopened its Tama, IA, plant after shuttered for two weeks following a COVID-19 outbreak where 177 workers out of 500 tested positive.
Farmers along the chain of hog production, from farrowing through to the nursing stage, to growing pigs out to market weight – have nowhere for the animals to go. A case in point: one farmer had 2000 pigs in a facility designated for only a 1,000 – with no market for any of them.
KANSAS – April 2020 – this state accounts for processing 25% of nation’s beef supply chain: in an attempt to avert total plant shutdowns and to back-up the livestock chain, Kansas Governor Kelly rushed PPE (personal protective equipment) to the state’s southwestern counties, the location of huge cattle slaughtering facilities owned by Cargill, National Beef/Marfrig, which serve ranchers in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and Nebraska.
MINNESOTA – April 2020 – an indefinite closing of pork processor JBS’s Worthington plant is reportedly due to the detection of COVID-19 infection among its 2000 person workforce. The plant processes 20,000 hogs on average per day.
INDIANA – April 2020 – After a brief shutdown this past March, to clear a cockroach infestation, the recently opened Tyson’s Logansport packing house has closed its 2,000- person facility again due to virus sanitation concerns.
SOUTH DAKOTA – April 2020 – With as many as 700 workers testing positive for COVID -19 at Smithfield Foods’ facility in Sioux Falls, the outbreak has sparked CDC concern and interest to detect whether or not the viral infection exists in other plants owned by this well-known pork giant.
Beyond these threats of and actual infection in the Cartel-owned meat processing workforce, the following list of CDC concerns are yet to be satisfactorily addressed: a lag in providing infection mitigation precautions in as many as 40 different foreign- languages, at a single location, work attendance being contingent upon carpooling/ride shares, overcrowded living arrangements in substandard housing, non-existent or shoddy healthcare.