Monday, July 19, 2021

Meatpacking roundup: journalist goes undercover at plant during pandemic; Biden order puts meatpackers 'on notice'

Here's a trio of recent news and commentary about the meatpacking industry.

The Atlantic has a freelance journalist's in-depth account of what it was like to work in a Cargill meatpacking plant in Kansas for six months during the pandemic. Read it here.

President Biden's recent pro-competition executive order, which includes provisions to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act, essentially "just put meat packers on notice" after a century of court rulings that have chipped away at legal protections for farmers, writes veteran journalist and agriculture columnist Dave Dickey for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

It's well known that the Trump administration wanted to ensure that meatpacking plants stayed open during the pandemic, but emails obtained by the nonprofit organization Public Citizen reveal that then-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue personally lobbied to keep plants open, the Midwest Center reports. As the pandemic continued, and more workers died, Agriculture Department officials across the country kept him informed about closures and whether local officials were being "cooperative." The main takeaway from the emails is the extent to which Perdue and other high-level officials, including from the vice-president's office, tried to keep plants open with tactics such as pressuring state and local officials.

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