COVID-19 Exposes Flaws in Animal Protein Production

 from Sentient Media

COVID-19 Exposes Flaws in Animal Protein Production
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our food system is breaking due to COVID-19 closures, but this collapse has been looming for decades.

We were warned years ago that another deadly pandemic was inevitable—but we did not listen. Instead, humans have continued prioritizing low food prices and convenience over public safety and pandemic prevention.

Though there are many contributors to the current collapse—including a growing global population and deep-rooted cultural norms—big meat and dairy companies, farmers, producers, and consumers are all to blame for the system’s demise. Demand for animal protein and deep-seated industrialization of animal farming have created the perfect breeding grounds for disease.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many slaughterhouses across North America have been shut down or are working at limited capacity because of large outbreaks among farm and slaughterhouse workers. The closing of restaurants, schools, and hotels—responsible for significant amounts of meat and dairy consumption—has contributed to a drop in demand for animal products.

As a result, there are now major backlogs of animals on farms. Eggs are being crushed, milk is being dumped, and our animal protein production system appears to be crumbling before our eyes—a reality that demonstrates the dire need for reform within our animal-dependent food system.

“The system is breaking up,” says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University, in Canada. What we see happening today, he says, “is really showing the limits of our system,” and the cost “are the lives of animals that were produced for no reason.”

Meat Production Is Showing No Signs of Slowing Down
Though COVID-19 has threatened food supply chains, meat production in 2021 is forecast to rise nearly 4 percent higher than in 2020 due to recovery in all major types of meat.

From an economic perspective, “the problem remains in processing,” Charlebois explains. Our food system was transformed over a century ago from local abattoirs to massive corporate slaughter plants. A centralized food system, he adds, “makes the entire supply chain vulnerable.”

Adam Clark Estes—Deputy Editor of Recode at Vox—explains that “Meatpacking remains consolidated to a few dozen Midwestern processing plants, many of which are owned by a handful of huge corporations, like JBS and Smithfield.” That’s why, he says, “when a few of these processors get shut down, due to a pandemic or something else, the country’s entire meat supply suffers.”

Read the full story

Covering COVID-19
With the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in over a century, it’s more important than ever to make sure the truth is reported in its entirety, not just what’s convenient.

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