BySky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, and Kyle Bagenstose, Veronica Martinez Jacobo and Rachel Axon, USA TODAY |
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.
Federal aid meant to distribute food to the poor has gone to a bankrupt dairy, an event planning company, as well as two meat processors under federal investigation, a Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analysis found.
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.
BySky Chadde, MIdwest Center for Investigative Reporting and Kyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY |
At least 170 plants in 29 states have had one or more workers test positive for the coronavirus. Some of those workers also have infected others, which is included in the count. At least 45 workers have died.
ByKyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY and Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
A week after President Donald Trump attempted to prop up the nation's meat supply chain through an executive order, the industry remains hobbled by plant closures and production losses, USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
ByPam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
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.