The meat problem #2: Meat as a vital component of national defense
Let’s review what’s happened here.
- When workers at meat packing plants became ill, public health authorities ordered some plants to close.
- Meat companies—and some state governors—resisted.
- Because of consolidation in the meat industry, plant closures threatened the meat supply.
- John Tyson, a Big Meat owner, lobbied President Trump to keep plants open.
It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (“meat and poultry”) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans. [Nutritional comment: grains and vegetables provide plenty of protein.]
A Missouri Court ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the primary jurisdiction over worker safety in meat processing plants during the Covid-19 crisis—not health agencies. The USDA applauded this ruling as “directly in line with what the Federal government has been calling for companies and communities to do in light of the President’s Executive Order.”
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue instructed companies to open, explaining that USDA was now in charge of making sure they do.
He wrote another order saying that “Maintaining the health and safety of plant employees in addition to ensuring continued operations and a plentiful food supply during this unprecedented time is paramount.”
This, alas, defies credulity, and it is no surprise that groups representing slaughterhouse workers say not enough is being done to protect them. OSHA is not enforcing CDC guidelines for social distancing, frequent hand washing and other such measures.
Indeed, meat processing plants are opening. including a Tyson’s slaughterhouse with more than 1000 workers who have been infected.
We will have meat—at higher prices, of course.
But at what cost to workers’ lives?