Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 8

C O M M E N TA R Y

Head's up
In the first days of March, just before
organized team sports were canceled
and subsequently restaurants, offices,
salons, gyms and other businesses
deemed "non-essential" were forced to
close to help control the spread of the
coronavirus (COVID-19), I attended a
Little League Baseball game to root for
the Rail Riders, whose roster includes
my friend's fourth-grade son. In the
bottom of the last inning of what was a
22-22 tied game, with the bases loaded
and two out, a lazy infield pop-up
struck by my friend's son was a sure
out - until it dropped innocently, with
a thud just in front of second base with
three players standing within arm's
length of it. Sadly, none of them called,
"I got it!" and the game ended with
the winning runner skipping across
home plate. The trio of infielders stood
frozen, mouths agape with the ball at
their feet.
Three months later, in the wake
of historic operational disruptions
of many meat and poultry plants due
to outbreaks of COVID-19, the meat
industry was reluctantly the focus of
a flood of media attention and public
scrutiny. The temporary disruption of
the food supply chain and outbreaks
at meat processing plants suddenly
had general news reporters scrambling

to become experts on what goes
on in some of the country's largest
slaughtering and processing facilities,
often failing to get the facts straight
due in part to the multiple sources of
information. The media and the general
public have bounced between multiple
sources to get the latest information
on testing results, infection rates,
new outbreaks at meat plants and
support for and against the closure
or reopening of plants. Statements
and guidelines have emanated from
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) and the US Department of
Agriculture (USDA). Local information
about outbreaks among plants, testing
plans for workers and frequent updates
have been made by a mix of state and
county health departments, governors,
mayors and other representatives of
municipalities across the country.
Meanwhile, the operational status
of plants where workers have tested
positive and the industry's response
to the crisis in general have garnered
the scrutiny of labor organizations,
including the United Food and
Commercial Workers International
Union, and at least one outspoken
county sheriff.
Adding to the madness of the
pandemic and during the flurry of
closure announcements, President
Trump issued an executive order to

compel reopening plants to avoid meat
and poultry product shortages, which
was seen as a mixed message by some.
In the midst of it all, the industry
has spent months scrambling to set
the record straight about the threat
posed by the operation of their plants
to workers and the communities
where they are located. They've also
invested millions to make plants safer
and ensure the well-being of workers
while continuing to feed the country
in what has been the most challenging
environment in history.
If ever there was an opportunity
for the industry to speak with one
voice, establishing a singular source for
updated information on plant closures,
testing protocols and industry-wide
efforts to protect the workers and
sustain the food supply chain it is now.
I would argue that the USDA is best
equipped to serve as that single source
to assimilate, update and funnel the
steady stream of information related
to the pandemic and the state of the
meat and poultry processing industry.
Processors are accustomed to working
with the agency and Agriculture
Secretary Sonny Perdue has proven
to be a reliable source of information
for the public and an advocate for the
industry. Especially if there might be a
second wave of the virus this fall, the
industry needs to identify who will step
up and call, "I got it!"
J O E L C R E WS, E D I TO R | j c r e w s @ s o s l a n d .c o m

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8

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Meat+Poultry - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - June 2020

Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - FC - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - FC - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 3
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 4
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 5
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 6
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 7
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 8
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 9
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Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - VDG - 1
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - VDG - 2
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 19
Meat+Poultry - June 2020 - 20
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