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.

Mass testing at meat plant finds 27 more coronavirus cases

Rantoul Foods will partially shut down Monday to undergo additional sanitization following a mass testing event at the plant Friday and Saturday that found 27 more cases of Covid-19 among employees, according to a company release. The total number of employees that contracted the illness is now at 82.

Covid-19 cases rise at Central Illinois meat packing plant

The number of Covid-19 cases at one of Central Illinois’ largest meat processing plants now stands at 52, health officials and plant management said Thursday.

Processing plant hit with Covid-19 under scrutiny since March

The meat processing plant hit with a coronavirus outbreak came under scrutiny by health officials in March before it was cited for being more than 90% out of compliance with infection control practices last week.

Public health officials said they visited Rantoul Foods- , which had 47 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of May 5 -   on April 27th after receiving reports of  Covid-19 cases among company employees.