DOJ: Tyson was not directed by federal government to continue pandemic production

The federal government never instructed Tyson Foods and other meatpackers to keep their plants open during the early months of the pandemic, according to the Department of Justice in a recent filing in a federal appeals case. Experts say the brief, along with others filed in the case, is a good sign for the plaintiffs, the relatives of four Tyson workers in Waterloo, Iowa, who died of Covid-19 last spring. It is also likely to have broad implications for other Covid-related lawsuits filed by meatpacking workers around the country. (No paywall)

Covid-19 rates in meatpacking counties now mirror other rural counties

Rural counties dominated by meatpacking plants endured their second surge in coronavirus cases during this winter but the latest wave "does not appear to be driven by new outbreaks in the meatpacking industry," said the USDA. "Meatpacking-dependent counties have maintained an almost identical pattern to other rural counties for the last seven months."

Smithfield pork plant in LA faces rolling Covid-19 outbreak

A coronavirus outbreak at the Farmer John pork processing plant in Los Angeles County that began nearly a year ago has been the focus of two state investigations. Cases at the Smithfield Foods-owned plant have more than doubled — with over 300 cases reported in January alone — as the county has become a Covid-19 epicenter, Leah Douglas and Georgia Gee report in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with the Covid-19 Reporting Project.

Meatpacking plants in the spotlight at House hearing

Meatpacking, poultry, and agricultural workers have faced "devastating" conditions during the pandemic, in part due to employers' and federal regulators' lax approach to worker safety, argued advocates during a hearing before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing comes as food system workers are becoming eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in many states, but new outbreaks and cases of the virus continue to emerge in these crowded workplaces across the country. No paywall

New fair play rule hurts livestock producers, say ag groups

One of the largest U.S. farm groups called for the incoming Biden administration to rescind a new fair play rule for livestock marketing, unveiled by the Agriculture Department on Thursday, that it sees as a setback for family farmers in dealing with the handful of companies that dominate the meat industry.

Characteristics of cell-based meat matter for labeling, meat lobby says

When it decides how to label cell-based meats, the government should base its decision on their characteristics — their meatiness — rather than their production method, suggested trade groups representing meatpackers and the start-ups growing meat in the laboratory. The groups raised the issue …

U.S. appeals court rejects injunction against California’s ‘cage-free’ Prop 12

In a ruling hailed as a victory for farm animals, the U.S. appellate court in San Francisco denied a meat industry request for an injunction against California's voter-approved Proposition 12, which guarantees more space for hogs, calves, and chickens to move about. The meat industry contends that Prop 12 and similar state laws violate the so-called commerce clause of the Constitution, though they have failed repeatedly to persuade the courts.

Consumers will pay higher meat prices through 2020

Grocery store prices for meat are declining after their springtime coronavirus surge, but more slowly than expected, meaning that shoppers will pay noticeably more at the meat counter this year than in 2019, said USDA economists. In the monthly Food Price Outlook, the USDA forecast meat prices will rise 6.5 percent this year, more than double their usual rate.

House bill would help meat processors boost facilities, get USDA certification

Ten members of the U.S. House filed a bipartisan bill to provide grants to poultry and red meat processors that want to improve their facilities so they can move to federal inspection and sell their products across state lines. Sponsors include leaders of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA spending.(No paywall)

Poultry slaughter slides but not as far as beef and pork

While red meat production fell by nearly one-fourth during April, poultry slaughter dropped by a much smaller 8 percent, said the USDA's monthly Poultry Slaughter report. Production of chicken, turkey, duck and other poultry meat totaled 4.09 billion pounds for the month, compared to 4.43 billion pounds in March. (No paywall)