The US meat supply chain is in disarray. At least 205 US slaughterhouses have had COVID-19 outbreaks, infecting at least 18,500 workers — about one in five of the industry’s workers. Over 7,000 workers at Tyson Foods alone have been infected, including over 1,000 at just one Iowa slaughterhouse. Meat is in short supply, with Walmart, Kroger, and Costco all limiting meat purchases. This has attracted huge media attention — the most slaughterhouses have received in a decade. In the last week, both USA Today and the Washington Post have printed long-form articles on the plight of slaughterhouse workers and the negligence of their employers. Even the industry’s euphemistically titled “depopulations” are now attracting mass media attention, including from ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and CNBC. Some are starting to connect these problems with factory farming — or even meat eating itself. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently endorsed Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)’s bill to ban the largest factory farms. Last week alone, CNN ran four pieces on how to eat less meat in response to meat shortages, while Jonathan Safran-Foer’s NYT op-ed on “the end of meat” trended on Twitter. This has led some to argue this is a unique opportunity to reform factory farming, or even to end it. Is it?
Bollard, L., (2020). The US Meat Supply Crisis. Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter, 28 May. https://www.openphilanthropy.org/farm-animal-welfare-newsletter-archive. Open Philanthropy, San Francisco, USA.