For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Jackie Filson, jfilson@fwwatch.org, 860-306-0108

USDA Spent Memorial Day Weekend Distorting Meat Production

Recently deregulated meat plants become COVID-19 hot spots, USDA gives out more meatpacker bailouts, and meat exports and cold storage stocks grow.

WASHINGTON - Today, Food & Water Action released an analysis of recent data and USDA reports that proves industry warnings of impending meat shortages to be false, and worker condemnation of meat processing deregulation during the current pandemic, to be true. Among the findings is proof that USDA is funneling trade relief funds to meat companies guilty of neglecting pandemic safety precautions, and that the agency even gave JBS another $10 million contract this afternoon.

USDA's contract for JBS totaled $10,787,280.16 for the purchase of nearly 4.4 million pounds of pork products. Most of that meat came from plants that have registered high numbers of COVID-19 cases among plant workers. 

The analysis also highlights that two more meat plants, deregulated by the USDA, became major COVID-19 hot spots over the weekend, while USDA is simultaneously reporting 

increases over just the past week in meat export and cold storage stockpiles. At the same time, a recent USDA announcement about finally procuring adequate supplies of face masks for meat inspectors, proves the agency did not have an emergency response plan for pandemics prepared in advance.

In response, Tony Corbo, Sr. Government Affairs Representative for Food & Water Action, issued the following statement:

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“The USDA is bailing out and deregulating meat companies while also reporting data that shows those very companies are guilty of spreading coronavirus among workers for no good reason. 

“The USDA itself is showing that industry claims of impending food shortages are hogwash — meat exports are actually increasing and cold storage stockpiles of meat are growing. Meanwhile, the numbers of workers in deregulated plants are proving for us the importance of meat slaughter line speed caps and federal meat inspection.

“USDA should take a long, hard look in the mirror and reverse course immediately by forcing industry to cap line speeds, follow federal inspection guidelines, mandate worker safety protocols, and keep plants closed as long as necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Read the full analysis here.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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