Pandemic and protest in a meatpacking town

Last March, Maira Mendez, a high school administrator in Lincoln, Nebraska, worried her parents might contract coronavirus from their jobs at Smithfield Foods, a massive pork processing plant in the nearby town of Crete. While the country grappled with stay-at-home orders, meatpacking plants across the nation quickly became invisible hotspots for the virus. Mendez and… » Read More

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Mapping Covid-19 outbreaks in the food system

Since April, FERN has been closely tracking the spread of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants, food processing facilities, and farms. This dashboard is home to our latest reporting on Covid-19 cases and food system workers, and is updated each weekday. According to data collected by FERN, as of August 11 at 12pm ET, at least 732… » Read More

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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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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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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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When meat plants shutter, what happens to market-ready animals?

Three weeks ago, Chris Petersen, a small-scale pig farmer in Clear Lake, Iowa, brought nine of his Berkshire hogs to slaughter at a nearby meat locker, which typically processes fewer than 10 pigs a day. Last week, he called to schedule another appointment, hoping for mid-June. But with demand for direct-marketed meat growing, thanks to… » Read More

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