Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Peter Hart,

Press Release

Meatpacking Plants and COVID: New Study Shows Devastating Link Between Outbreaks and Countywide Virus Transmission

Industry-friendly line speed policies must be changed to better protect public safety

A new study in Food Policy shows that COVID infections at large meatpacking facilities are associated with virus outbreaks in the county where those facilities are located. The study finds that almost 350,000 COVID-19 infections are “attributable to meatpacking plants in the U.S with associated mortality and morbidity costs totaling more than $11.2 billion.” 

Further, the study found that the presence of large beef packing facilities increased the per capita infection rates by 110%, compared to counties without meatpacking plants. Large pork and chicken processing facilities increased transmission rates by 160% and 20%, respectively.

In response to these findings, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement:

“We have seen from the start of the COVID crisis that unsafe conditions in meatpacking plants have been exacerbating the spread of the disease.  Indeed, the working conditions that have hastened COVID transmission are precisely those that worker advocates have long cited as deadly and dangerous, even without a pandemic.

“These conditions are in no small part due to the push to increase line speeds at these plants. In 2014, the USDA promulgated rules allowing most poultry plants to increase their slaughter-line speeds so that plant employees must process carcasses at faster than two birds per second. In 2019, the Trump administration also issued illegal rules that would lift line speed limits altogether in swine slaughter plants. As recently as April of last year, the USDA granted new regulatory waivers to allow poultry operations to increase their line speeds even further.  The agency has already granted one line-speed waiver for a cattle slaughter plant, is poised to grant another, and intends to issue rules that would allow these plants to permanently increase their line speeds.

“To address this crisis and to protect these workers, Congress must ensure that meat and poultry companies are not allowed to put profits before worker safety and public health.”


Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Watchdog: Secret Service Didn't Notify Capitol Police of Threat to Pelosi Until After Jan. 6 Attack

"This is deeply disturbing and requires a full investigation," said one legal expert.

Jessica Corbett ·

Advocates Welcome Temporary Block on South Carolina's 6-Week Abortion Ban

"Today's decision is a huge relief for people who desperately need abortion care in South Carolina right now," said one reproductive rights lawyer.

Brett Wilkins ·

Federal Court Strikes Down Ruling That Blocked Biden's Drilling Moratorium

"Today's decision demonstrates how flawed the preliminary injunction issued in June 2021 was, and that Interior must quickly take action to reform the federal fossil fuel program," said one environmental lawyer.

Julia Conley ·

Two Weeks Before Payments Resume, Progressives Tell Biden 'Time to Cancel Student Debt'

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that "we're having conversations daily with the White House and borrowers will know directly and soon from us when a decision is made."

Jessica Corbett ·

Progressive Mandela Barnes Leads Ron Johnson by 7 Points in New Poll

"People are done being represented by an out-of-touch, self-serving multimillionaire like Ron Johnson," said Wisconsin's Democratic Senate nominee.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo