The meat and poultry industries are going through COVID-19 outbreaks. USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting tracking stated that as of the week of May 7, there were 10,000 COVID-19 cases at meatpacking plants around the U.S. And, at least 170 plants in 29 states now have had at least one worker test positive for the virus.

Just a week earlier on May 1st, the Centers for Disease Control reported 115 meat or poultry plants in 19 states had outbreaks. Factors potentially affecting risk for infection include difficulties with physical distancing, hygiene and crowded living, and transportation conditions.

In order to keep lost sales at a minimum, meat and poultry processors recently have turned to online sales as well as selling directly to consumers. Will this work for the long haul, depending on how long the supply chain will be chinked? Who knows. But at least the processors are trying something new to help consumers get their products.

Some plants are reopening after a two-week shutdown, like the JBS pork processing facility in southwestern Minnesota. According to a press release, the company “took the opportunity to enhance COVID-19 prevention protocols.” One reason for reopening is to assist producers. Recent U.S. pork plant closures, and reduced production levels at pork processing facilities across the country, have left American producers with few options for market-ready hogs.

What about plant workers? They have the choice of working in a plant with a pandemic outbreak, or not working. Not a fun choice. The CDC suggests a few steps for plants: add physical dividers/barriers between workers when possible; consider consulting with an HVAC engineer to ensure adequate ventilation; place more handwashing/sanitizing stations; and add clock in/out stations, if possible, that are spaced apart to quell overcrowding.

In this month’s issue, we cover print packaging methods, f/f/s bagging, vegan heat-and-eat foods, how one company conceptualized a new crisis-specific product during the pandemic and more.

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