• Friday, April 24, 2020

    The Meat Industry in the midst of COVID-19

    This is a scary time. Our entire society is fighting an enemy we can't see and have never fought before. 

    Everyone is worried and stressed.

    There have been news reports this week about the virus spreading in meat packing plants and those plants shutting down or significantly slowing production.

    What does that mean for our food supply?

    First, we are not going to run out of food. Yes, a slow down in production may affect the variety of protein available in some parts of our country, but we are not going to run out. We may have to get more creative or open minded about what we cook and serve our families. We may have to try new things or not have our favorite cuts for a little while. 
    But, this too shall pass. We will not run out of food.

    Packing plants

    Workers in packing plants work in very close quarters. They have to stand near each other. Social distancing is not possible. There are lots of shared spaces like break rooms, changing rooms, and work areas. It’s not surprising that the virus spread in the plants because people are so close to each other.

    That doesn't mean that COVID-19 is being passed on to consumers. The USDA does not have any reports of people becoming infected with COVID-19 from food or food packaging. This virus mainly spreads from person to person and is a respiratory virus meaning that you become infected when it enters your nose, eyes, or mouth. Viruses do not grow in food and when foods are cooked, viruses are killed. Follow the four steps of food safety to keep your family safe from all illness; wash your hands, be sure to cook your food to safe temperatures, keep cooked foods away from uncooked foods, and be sure to chill your leftovers in a timely manner.

    Companies are doing what they can to keep their doors open and keep their people safe. Many are taking temperatures of employees, testing employees for the disease, and when people are infected, they stay home from work.  There is lots of extra cleaning and sanitation. Workers are wearing masks (most already wear gloves and wash their hands frequently). Some companies are providing partitions to keep people apart from each other.

    These plants are in the middle of the food chain, so shutting down can have devastating consequences up and down the food supply.


    This disease has been dreadful for farmers. Some dairy farmers are dumping milk and egg farmers breaking eggs. We’ve heard about potatoes and other produce going to waste because no one can come pick it. Farmers all over this country have millions of animals ready to go to harvest in our food supply. Packing plants not purchasing them is a devastating condition for those farmers. The supply chain for beef animals goes back over two years to when the cow was bred. Pork and poultry are not quite as long, but still several months.

    Grocery stores

    People are buying more food in grocery stores than we’ve ever seen. Those stores have to have employees there to keep the food on the shelves. Then there are the truck drivers and supply chain workers that are also still hard at work in this mess. Those folks are putting themselves at risk every day because they have to be interact with people. They wear masks and try to social distance, but it must be so stressful.

    In the US, we have the safest, least expensive food supply in the world. But that takes millions of people working every day. I love to think about the scope of our industry. That industry that feeds 300 million people.

    Please continue to ask me about the meat industry. Hit me up with questions about new cuts that you are trying or new ways of cooking. Let me know about your successes and failures. Send me concerns about food safety. I’m happy to answer any question you may have.

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