The Meat Industry's Foreign Labor Problem is Threatening America's Meat Supply

It's not just Made in China that's a problem. Though it is. It's also industries powered by guest workers, migrants, and assorted foreign labor. South Dakota's Chinese Virus problem is largely due to Smithfield, a foreign company with a foreign labor force.

And it's not alone.

A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meat packing plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. 

And it could get worse. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on the media outlets’ analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates.

These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found. 

And while experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,200 workers at 48 plants, there are fears that the number of cases could continue to rise and that meat packing plants will become the next disaster zones.

It's insane that we have an industry that ought to be all-American and is instead dependent on foreign workers living in dorms with poor standards of hygiene. While the article doesn't mention it, these plants have in recent years come to depend heavily on Mexican, Central American and African laborers. There's a reason this is happening in meat processing plants and not, say, among steelworkers.

As a result we are looking at a scenario where the country's meat supply could be threatened.


Wondering what happened to your Disqus comments?

Read the Story