America’s biggest meat processors misled the country about the state of meat supplies because they wanted to keep workers coming in during the early stages of the pandemic, according to a congressional report.
The scathing report from a bipartisan select House subcommittee accuses the major meat companies of lying about the necessity of keeping meat processing plants running in early and mid-2020. It says that aggressive lobbying of Trump administration officials led to Trump’s executive order in April to keep the plants open.
“Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take,” the report says. “They nonetheless lobbied aggressively...to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.”
The report notes that while America was supposedly gripped by low meat supplies, companies like JBS and Smithfield Foods exported more pork to China during the first three quarters of 2020 than in the same period in 2017.
The major meat companies issued statements to the Washington Post that their actions during the pandemic were appropriate.
Some 59,000 workers for the five major meat companies (Tyson Foods, Smithfield, JBS, National Beef, Cargill) contracted COVID during the pandemic, and at least 269 of them died.