U.S. meatpackers ran at roughly three-fourths capacity during April as outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some of the country's largest meat plants to close temporarily, said the USDA on Thursday. Production is rebounding in May, but the risk of a resurgence of the virus hangs over the industry, said analysts. (No paywall)
As Covid-19 has swept through meatpacking facilities, it has been hard to figure out exactly how many workers have gotten sick or died of the virus. Some companies have shared numbers on positive cases, but most of the largest meatpackers have kept that data private. Critics say that the lack of disclosure puts public health at risk, especially as nearly all idled meat plants reopen. (No paywall)
Wholesale beef prices have jumped to record levels, as shoppers stockpile meat in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. But this run on beef isn’t helping cattle ranchers. On the contrary, cattle prices have plummeted since January, putting many ranchers on the brink of collapse. “It’s never been worse. The futures market is crashing … and box beef prices are skyrocketing. It’s nuts,” says rancher Mike Callicrate of St. Francis, Kansas. (No Paywall)
Eight months after one USDA agency rescinded its standard for grass-fed beef, a sister agency published a "labeling guideline" — open to public comment for 60 days — that says the term is available only for beef from cattle "that were only (100 percent) fed grass (forage) after being weaned." A small-farm group said the step would "preserve the label's strong reputation."
A government report says the injury rate for meat industry workers has improved greatly yet injuries are more common than in the rest of the manufacturing sector, reports Harvest Public Media. "But injuries in the meat industry are also likely to be under-reported," it says.
Federal workplace records show that during the first nine months of 2015, "workers in meatpacking plants owned by Tyson Foods averaged at least one amputation a month," says Harvest Public Media, which credits occupational health professor Celeste Monforton for getting the data through a Freedom of Information Act request.
With time running out, the Senate passed and sent to the House a bill to reauthorize federal inspection of export grain and a requirement for meatpackers to report purchase prices of cattle, hogs and sheep.
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill to reauthorize federal inspection of export grain and the requirement that meatpackers report purchase prices of cattle, hogs and sheep. The five-year reauthorization now goes to the Senate floor for a vote. The House approved separate bills to reauthorize the programs on June 9 by voice votes.
Meatpackers may as well put up a sign: No robots need apply, says KUNC's Luke Runyon in a story on the limits of technology and the economics of meat plants.
The giant Brazilian meatpacker JBS, a relative newcomer to North America, will buy the pork operations of agribusiness rival Cargill for $1.45 billion, the companies announced.