ByJoey Birrittier/For Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
It began in mid-March when the new coronavirus became part of ordinary American life with shortages of household products like hand sanitizer, toilet paper and paper towels. Now, as May has turned to June, scarcity – and the fear of it -- is all about the meat.
As of June 6, there have been at least 20,400 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 216 plants in 33 states, and at least 74 reported worker deaths, according to a Midwest Center analysis.
ByCynthia Voelkl/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Back in March, the coronavirus started triggering infection hotspots in and around meatpacking plants, sickening and killing workers. As local public health authorities pushed giant meat conglomerates to close infected facilities, industry executives warned that doing so was “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” as Kenneth M. Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, declared in a April 12 press release.
The global food production system, which
includes agriculture, accounts for more than a third of manmade greenhouse
gases, according to an August report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change.
And while past focus has been on industries
such as fossil fuels and transportation, new attention is being put on
agriculture’s role in the climate change
solution. On September 18, a coalition representing 10,000 farmers and ranchers
delivered a letter to congress supporting the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution to
transition the United States to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.
Farming, more than any other industry, might be the best hope for curbing climate change.