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)

As U.S. hog backup tops 2 million head, Iowa says it will help pay for carcass disposal

The persisting coronavirus slowdown at pork plants has stranded 2 million hogs on the farm with no buyer, and the backlog is growing, said economist Steve Meyer on Wednesday, suggesting that some farmers will be forced to destroy their animals. In Iowa, the state announced a program to help farmers cover the cost of carcass disposal. (No paywall)

As more meatpacking workers fall ill from Covid-19, meat companies decline to disclose data

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)

Smithfield Foods calls timeout to sanitize Sioux Falls plant

One of the largest U.S. meat processors, Smithfield Foods, said it will conduct "deep cleaning and sanitization," beginning on Saturday at the South Dakota pork plant where more than 80 of 3,700 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. (No paywall)

JBS, under fire for taking Trump’s tariff bailout, is accused of polluting a Colorado river

In a new lawsuit, environmental advocates say a Colorado beef-packing plant owned by JBS has been dumping polluted wastewater into a river for years. The suit comes as the Brazilian company is under fire for taking millions in President Trump's tariff bailout payments. (No paywall)

Beef packing merger threatens last competitive cash cattle market in U.S.

Last month, the nation’s fourth-largest beef packer, National Beef, announced plans to take over Sysco-owned Iowa Premium, a regional packer focused on processing Black Angus steers for the Upper Midwest. National Beef is majority-owned by the Brazilian firm Marfrig. (No paywall)

From the lungs of cows to the lungs of premature babies

The meatpacking industry is famed for using all parts of the animal except the oink or the moo. Even by that standard, a tiny Canadian pharmaceutical company, BLES Biochemicals, does the industry one better, by collecting an off-white foam — a pulmonary surfactant — from the lungs of cattle at a slaughterhouse for eventual use in helping premature babies breathe, reports Stat, the medical news site.