At a Wayne Farms chicken plant in Alabama, employees recently needed to pay the company 10 cents per day to buy masks to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, based on a meat inspector.
In Colorado, nearly a 3rd of the staff at a JBS USA beef plant stayed at home amid safety concerns for the past two weeks as a 30-year-old employee of the facility died after complications from the virus.
And since an Olymel pork facility in Quebec shut on March 29, the number of staff who examined positive for the coronavirus quintupled to over 50, based on their union. The facility and at least ten others in North America have briefly closed or reduced production in about the last two weeks due to the pandemic, disrupting meals supply networks that have struggled to keep pace with rising demand at grocery shops.
Based on more than a dozen interviews with the U.S and Canadian plant workers, union leaders and trade analysts, a lack of protective gear and the nature of “elbow to elbow” work needed to debone chickens, cut beef and slice hams are highlighting risks for workers and limiting production as some forego the low-paying work.
Corporations that added protections, such as enhanced cleaning or spacing out workers, say the strikes are also slowing meat production.