As coronavirus hog backlog shrinks, farmers should see higher prices

Hog farmers struggled with a coronavirus-caused backlog of market-ready hogs that peaked at 3.5 million head at the end of May, forcing them to cull some and slowing weight gain on others. The backlog remains large, but Purdue economist Jayson Lusk says farmers may see "possibly elevated hog prices" by the end of the year as the hog supply shrinks.

Children of workers led virus-driven protests in meatpacking town

This past spring, as meatpacking plants across the nation quickly became invisible hotspots for Covid-19, a group of young adults whose parents work at the massive Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Crete, Nebraska, launched a series of protests that were unprecedented in an industry that likes to keep a low profile, as Esther Honig and Mary Anne Andrei report in FERN's latest story, a multimedia partnership with Latino USA.(No paywall)

CDC updates Covid-19 numbers at meat plants but uses weeks-old data

As of May 31, more than 16,000 meat and poultry processing workers in 23 states had contracted Covid-19, and 86 had died of the disease, said a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday. Nearly 90 percent of the affected workers were identified as Hispanic, Black, or Asian. According to more up-to-date data, however, the numbers for infected and deceased workers are actually much higher. (No paywall)

Judge declares much of N.C. ag-gag law unconstitutional

A federal judge handed a victory late Friday to animal-welfare advocates when he declared that much of North Carolina’s ag-gag law violated the First Amendment’s free-speech provisions. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder’s ruling could also help employees who are trying to expose slaughterhouses that put their workforces at risk for Covid-19 infection, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.(No paywall)

Meat plants should slow the line, separate workers, say unions

The government should order meatpackers to slow the work pace at typically crowded processing plants and separate workers to reduce the risk of coronavirus outbreaks, said two labor unions on Wednesday. During a House hearing, the president of one of the unions said that "some responsible employers, like Cargill and Safeway, have done what is right," while companies such as Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger have not. (No paywall)

How did Europe avoid a Covid-19 crisis at its meatpacking plants?

In the United States, Covid-19 has been sweeping through meatpacking plants, infecting more than 24,000 workers and killing at least 92 of them. Those figures are more than nine-times larger than at meat plants in Europe, though the U.S. industry has only a third more workers.  Bridget Huber explains how Europe largely avoided the crisis sweeping the U.S. industry in FERN's latest story. (No paywall)

Coalition calls for ‘corporate’ meat boycott to improve working conditions

Thanks to falling production and rising prices, Americans are expected to eat less meat this year than last. But a coalition of groups led by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) wants Americans to cut back even further, calling for a boycott on "corporate" meat until working conditions in meatpacking plants improve. (No paywall)

Most meat plants will be on line this week despite coronavirus, says Perdue

Although beef and pork slaughter plants ran at less than three-fourths capacity last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "We think most of our facilities will be back on line" by the end of this week. That would account for as much as 85 percent of U.S. meat-processing capacity. Fourteen beef, pork and poultry plants resumed operation last week, according to the USDA. Other tallies showed a handful of plants still shut down.(No paywall)

‘The workers are being sacrificed’

new FERN investigation, published Friday in collaboration with Mother Jones, reporters Esther Honig and Ted Genoways tell the stories of workers in America's meatpacking plants who are facing high rates of Covid-19 — and of the industry's chilling disregard for its workforce. (No paywall)