Meatpacking Plants Accounted for 334,000 U.S. COVID Cases

TUESDAY April 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Meat packing plants have been responsible for around 334,000 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, according to a new study. He estimates the economic cost of this business at $ 11.2 billion.

And study author Tina Saitone, a co-operative extension specialist in livestock and pasture economics at the University of California, Davis, said those numbers were conservative.

The research focused on US counties with large meat packing plants that produced more than 10 million pounds per month. Investigators looked at infections within 150 days of the first documented COVID case in each county.

Beef and pork processing plants more than doubled infection rates in counties where they were located, while chicken processing plants increased rates by 20%, according to the study.

Explaining why they think the real numbers are likely higher, the researchers noted that they were focusing on infection rates in counties with meat-packing plants and ignoring cases that could have been contracted in a meat packing plant but spread to other counties.

“Likewise, our study probably underestimates the true economic losses,” Saitone said in an academic press release.

Although the study assesses lost wages and fatalities, it does not include the costs of long-term health care or the costs of worker safety measures.

“Although we saw an initial increase in cases attributable to meat processing facilities, over time the per capita infection rates were the same as those in counties without them, in part because the factories of meat packaging have implemented numerous protocols to protect employees, ”Saitone said.

The COVID pandemic has caused massive disruption in the food supply chain. Some critics have said that a smaller, more geographically dispersed industry would make it less vulnerable to a pandemic, the researchers noted.

But such a change would increase costs and raise food prices, they said.

Instead, economists suggest the meat packaging industry could look into the automation and technological innovations that have made the poultry industry more resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results were recently published online in the journal Food policy.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on meat / poultry factories and COVID-19.

SOURCE: University of California, Davis, press release, April 15, 2021

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