The pandemic led to 334,000 cases of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants, resulting in at least $11.2 billion in economic damage, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.
The study, published in the journal Food Policy, concluded that large beef and pork processing plants more than doubled the transmission rate, and chicken plants added to it by 20%. These rates held even after controlling for factors like nearby prisons or nursing homes, population density and stay-at-home orders.
The authors said that their estimates of cases and economic damage was likely conservative. They added, however, that the meat industry managed to get the situation under control over time with safety measures.
“While we did see an initial ramp-up in cases attributable to meatpacking facilities, over time infection rates were the same per capita as [in] counties without them, partly because meatpacking plants implemented a lot of protocols to protect employees,” the study’s lead author said.