In late spring and early summer 2020, meatpacking plants had some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

This had consequences for consumers — they had to spend more to maintain their diets, according to research published in April by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The research focused on "welfare loss," or the reduction in households' well-being. In particular, the study sought to determine how much more money consumers would need to spend on common types of meat after their prices increased at grocery stores, while still maintaining their level of satisfaction.

[Read more: GRAPHIC: Food prices — especially meat — are outstripping historical inflation]

The USDA noted the greatest welfare loss for consumers in 2020 was during the months when meatpacking plants were "most affected" by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top image: A shopper examines a package of meat in a grocery store for freshness on Jan. 17, 2012. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus