Cheap chicken, beef came at a cost. How American meat plants bred coronavirus hot spots.

The meatpacking industry has evolved into a marvel of modern efficiency, producing 105 billion pounds annually of poultry, pork, beef and lamb destined for dinner tables across America and the world. That’s nearly double what it produced three decades ago.

But its evolution came at a cost. The same features that allow a steady churn of cheap meat also provide the perfect breeding ground for airborne diseases like the coronavirus: a cramped workplace, a culture of underreporting illnesses, and a cadre of rural, immigrant and undocumented workers who share transportation and close living quarters.