While consumers pay high beef prices at the grocery store, very little has trickled down to ranchers — in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the gap between the retail price for beef and the price producers receive is the largest it's ever been. In interviews, eight ranchers in seven states agreed their profits have stagnated or even decreased, while the meatpacking companies — which buy the animals for slaughter, then package the meat to be sold at grocery stores — have benefited.
ByMadison McVan, Eli Hoff and Sky Chadde, Investigate Midwest |
It’s well-established that Trump administration officials wanted meatpacking plants to keep operating, often with industry pressure, as workers fell ill and died by the dozens. But new emails obtained by nonprofit Public Citizen show Perdue personally lobbying to keep plants open, including pressing Robert Redfield, the former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director.
ByRachel Axon USA TODAY, Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Since the executive order, COVID-19 cases tied to meatpacking plants have skyrocketed from fewer than 5,000 at the time to more than 25,000 as of this week, according to tracking from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Rather than protecting workers, a half dozen experts and advocates said, the federal government is failing them.
ByRachel Axon, Kyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY, Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Coronavirus outbreaks at U.S. meatpacking plants continue to soar as the beleaguered industry ramps up production, scales back plant closures and tries to return to normal in the weeks after President Donald Trump declared it an essential operation.
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.
BySky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, and Kyle Bagenstose USA TODAY |
As coronavirus cases mounted at meatpacking plants this month, the federal government granted 15 poultry processors waivers to cut chickens faster, usually by crowding more workers onto their production lines.
ByKyle Bagenstose, Grace Hauk, USA TODAY and Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector tasked with ensuring safe food quality at meat processing plants died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, a source who was on a call in which the federal agency confirmed the death told USA TODAY.
ByKyle Bagenstose, Sky Chadde and Matt Wynn, USA TODAY |
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.