Farmer says control over meat supply in the US needs to shift
Cody Hopkins is the founding farmer and CEO of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative. The veteran farmer explains how the spread of coronavirus has led to a rise of alternative meat sources and why consumer habits are shifting the way meat is sold.
Meat and poultry plant executives are confident that they’ve beefed up health and safety protocols enough so they won’t have to shut down again as a result of COVID-19, despite flu season underway.
“I would imagine most of the industry is doing what we’re doing and that is really pushing the flu shots right now. Our wellness centers are giving these out and encouraging people to get them,” Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms, the parent company of meat producer Perdue Foods, told Fox News on Wednesday.
“We’re continuing the protocols on social distancing and masks as we were during the height of the pandemic. Half a dozen of our harvest plants did 100% [COVID-19] testing,” Perdue said.
Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue said in a statement sent to Fox News that the move is meant “to improve performance and the services these agencies provide.” The secretary of agriculture added that the planned move would bring the department’s scientists closer to “stakeholders” and “customers” such as Midwest farmers. (iStock)
Salisbury, Maryland-based Perdue is the fourth-largest producer of chicken in the country, with food processing plants in states including Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama Delaware, Tennessee and Virginia.
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Perdue says the company most recently did testing in North Carolina, a hot spot, and has been following CDC guidelines.
“Our company doctor was telling us to watch the community’s positivity rate, and if that community goes up, then we need to really pay attention. This community started spiking so we tested all of our people. We found that we’ve been under our community percent positives in all of these testing scenarios,” Perdue said. “Our testing results indicate it’s having a positive effect on reducing the infection rate.”
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In March, during the height of the pandemic, dozens of Perdue Farms workers in Georgia walked off the job over concerns about workplace safety conditions and pay after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, local news outlets reported at the time. Perdue ramped up its health and safety protocols to include 24-hour sanitation, increasing cleaning and encouraging workers to use paid time off if they are sick or have been exposed to the virus.
Perdue says the company paid out bonuses to all of its hourly workers in March “when they needed it the most,” and says hourly wages increased a dollar per hour.
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Other meat-processing plants like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods closed down a slew of plants earlier this year when thousands of workers became infected with the coronavirus, resulting in supply chain issues and meat shortages at grocery stores. Prices on meat also went up because of it.