Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to The Guardian, large meat processing plants have focussed too much on keeping costs down. But they disregard the consequences of not keeping costs down.
Meat-free future? Coronavirus exposes America’s fragile food system
Supply chain problems and workplace infection risks mean experts are urging US producers to focus on sustainability
But for some critical observers, the crisis in America’s huge industrial meat production sector came as no real surprise. Will Harris, a cattleman at White Oak Pastures in southern Georgia, said he always knew a “trainwreck” would hit the factory farming industry.
“For the past 70 years, big multinational corporations have moved our food system further and further down the road of focusing only on efficiency, only on taking costs out of production,” Harris said. “And in doing that they created a very fragile food system where a lot of things can go wrong.”
But Harris said there is an alternative: his style of farming.
A lobby which represents cattle farmers and ranchers, R-Calf USA, wrote to the White House urging it to consider restructuring the beef industry so there are more plants owned by more people. “This high level of physical and geographical concentration of America’s vital beef supply chain is intuitively and inherently contrary to America’s food security interests, as now unequivocally demonstrated by Covid-19,” the letter said.
“This is an opportunity for meat-eaters to join together with sustainable producers of meat, and with meat and dairy industry workers, to all unite together and say we want a better system,” said Nina Ichikawa, executive director for the Berkeley Food Institute, which seeks to expand access to healthy, affordable food.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/10/coronavirus-america-meat-food-system-farming
In my opinion this is a disguised attempt to make meat less affordable, under the guise of making the food chain more sustainable and resilient, by attempting to use Covid-19 as an excuse to insert green policy objectives into US food processing regulations.
If a large meat packing plant closes temporarily because of Covid, obviously this is bad news for the workers, but in terms of food supply a temporary closure is a blip. A temporary closure or two is certainly not an excuse for a permanent shut down of all big meat processing plants.
There is room in the market for premium meat like Harris Farm. I buy expensive gourmet meat because I like the flavour. But I also remember a time when I couldn’t afford expensive meat, when my only option to feed my family was to buy the cheapest factory processed meat I could find.
Reforming the industry to eliminate cheap factory produced meat would be a disastrous attack on the protein intake of poor people. Guardian authors might be able to afford gourmet meat, or expensive vegan alternatives to meat protein, but the poorest people would simply go hungry.