When Covid-19 hits a rural meatpacking plant, county infection rates soar to five times the average

Rural counties that contain meatpacking plants with outbreaks of Covid-19 have infection rates that are five-times higher on average than the rest of rural America. Of the rural counties with the highest infection rates, most contain slaughterhouses where workers have contracted Covid-19. These rural counties also rank among those hardest hit by the disease nationally,… » Read More

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Feeding refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border was always a challenge. Now there’s Covid-19. 

Since 2019, a crisis has been unfolding directly across the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas. About 2,000 refugees, largely from Central America, have been stranded in a riverside encampment, wholly dependent on humanitarian groups for food and other basic needs. Feeding them before Covid-19 was a daunting task for the aid groups. The pandemic has… » Read More

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Charting the spread of Covid-19 in the food system

Food industry workers have experienced some of the fastest-growing rates of Covid-19, which FERN has been closely tracking in the food system since mid-April. The charts below draw out some trends from that data, including the states with the most severe outbreaks, which companies have the highest number of cases, and what types of plants… » Read More

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‘The workers are being sacrificed’: As cases mounted, meatpacker JBS kept people on crowded factory floors

On her phone, Crystal Rodriguez keeps a photo of her father hooked up to a ventilator. Nurses at the hospital sent her the image after he’d spent close to a month in the intensive care unit at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, battling severe complications from Covid-19. At 58, he was unable… » Read More

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Mapping Covid-19 outbreaks in the food system

[This story was updated on May 29] According to data collected by FERN, as of May 29 at 12pm ET, at least 245 meatpacking and food processing plants and 22 farms and production facilities have confirmed cases of Covid-19, and at least two meatpacking plants and four food processing plants are currently closed. At least… » Read More

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Trump’s executive order seeks controversial overhaul of seafood industry

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the meatpacking sector, the Trump administration on Thursday made a major announcement about another essential food industry: seafood. With a late-afternoon executive order, the administration laid out a pathway for the approval of ocean aquaculture in federal waters, a controversial departure from existing policy that could reshape the country’s seafood… » Read More

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A burst of home-grown food, farming, in Alaska

Meghan Gervais is a commercial fisherman and mother of three who lives in Homer, Alaska, a town with a single highway connecting it to the rest of the state—and to grocery supplies from the port of Anchorage. While eating local foods has always been important to her, this spring, with Covid-19 on her mind, she… » Read More

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As Covid-19 hobbles the industrial meat industry, small producers are having a moment

Chloe Johnson and her husband Craig Scariot did not grow up on farms. He studied finance and she has an IT job, but in 2015, they bought a 100-year-old ranch in Longmont, Colorado, stocked it with chickens, pigs and sheep, and built a business selling organic, grass-fed meat directly to consumers. Running SkyPilot Farm hasn’t… » Read More

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What needs to change in America’s food system

The novel coronavirus crisis has made it impossible to ignore the fundamental weaknesses of our system of food production and distribution — from a reliance on farm and restaurant workers who are underpaid and largely unprotected, to the fragility of a supply chain that is highly concentrated and centralized. Highly efficient, this system evolved to… » Read More

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