To the editor:
Massive slaughterhouse closures are driving U.S. consumers to plant-based meat products, as sick workers pay the price.
Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods, the largest meat processors, have closed 17 plants, devastating rural communities and threatening the nation’s meat supply. Production is already down by 25 %.
In reaction, U.S. sales of plant-based meats surged by 265 %, according to consumer data group Nielsen. Shares of Beyond Meat, a prominent plant-based meat brand, rallied by 60%.
A Washington Post investigation found that the coronavirus outbreaks in more than 48 U.S. meatpacking plants have sickened at least 3,300 workers and killed 17. The companies failed to provide adequate protective gear to the workers and forced some with COVID-19 symptoms to keep working. USA Today reports that more than 150 of U.S.’s largest plants operate in counties with the highest rate of the coronavirus infection.
In addition to the generally accepted consumer health argument for avoiding animal food products, the pandemic has now added the worker health element. Production of plant-based meats requires much less labor and allows for ample physical distancing.
We can all support the switch to healthy food on our next visit to our supermarket.