Cattle group proposes more transparency in market prices

As an antidote for the dwindling cash market, the largest U.S. cattle group circulated a plan on Tuesday for meatpackers to voluntarily buy cattle on the spot market to assure fair and open prices, with the threat of mandatory disclosure if the systems fails. The so-called 75 percent plan by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association stood as an alternative to bills in Congress to require packers to buy as many as half of their slaughter cattle for cash.

Public health experts warn of possible Covid-19 resurgence at food plants this fall

Public health experts are concerned about a possible resurgence of Covid-19 in food production plants this fall, Leah Douglas reports in FERN’s latest story. They say more comprehensive testing, physical distancing, and better data reporting are essential to keeping the virus in check, even as …

States are rolling back recent transparency measures in how they report meatpacking plant outbreaks

Several states introduced more rigorous public reporting of Covid-19 outbreaks and cases in the agriculture sector this summer after calls from advocates and the media for more transparency. But several of those efforts have been stalled, rolled back, or rely on outdated information, which public health experts and labor advocates say hinders communities’ and workers’ ability to curtail the spread of the virus.

Meatpackers ignored warnings to plan for a pandemic, report finds

Experts and federal agencies repeatedly urged meatpackers to prepare for a potential future pandemic as far back as the Bush administration, yet none of the major packers had stocked personal protective equipment or trained personnel on pandemic response before the novel coronavirus began to spread in 2020, an investigation from ProPublica found.

Covid-19 cases appear to be slowing at meat plants. But companies aren’t releasing test results.

After many months of surging cases, the number of new Covid-19 infections reported at meatpacking plants appears to have slowed. Yet with limited information from the major meatpackers on new cases at their facilities, advocates say it isn’t clear whether the trend reflects a true decline.(No paywall)

Meatpackers skeptical of broader disclosure of cattle prices and purchases

Noting complaints about dwindling competition, the USDA listed several ways to improve price transparency in the cattle market on Wednesday and offered to assist stakeholders and policymakers in exploring options to assure fair prices and level the playing field between producers and processors.

Hog backlog on U.S. farms could hit 2 million head

As many as 2 million hogs are backed up on U.S. farms because of coronavirus slowdowns and shutdowns at meatpacking plants, said three economists on Thursday, with the backlog likely to persist into the fall. The oversupply will weigh on market prices unless there is a strong recovery as the economy reopens, they said. (No paywall)

Ranchers, labor union call for stronger Covid-19 protections for meatpacking workers

As Covid-19 spreads in meatpacking plants across the country, a number of groups representing ranchers and farmers have joined with a key labor union to call for stronger protections for meatpacking workers. The alliance comes as the tally of meat industry workers who have contracted the disease approaches 25,000, even as companies restrict information about outbreaks at their facilities. (No paywall)

The lethal Covid-19 connection between meatpacking plants and rural communities

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the U.S. meatpacking industry and the communities where meatpacking plants are located, a number of disturbing connections are becoming clearer, says FERN’s latest story, produced with The Daily Yonder. The story cross-references Covid-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants with infection rates in U.S. counties. Among its findings: Rural counties that have meatpacking plants with Covid-19 outbreaks have an average infection rate of nearly 1,100 cases per 100,000 residents. In rural counties without meatpacking plant-linked outbreaks, the average infection rate is only 209 cases per 100,000 residents. (No paywall)