A study from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows the role meatpacking plants played in the spread of COVID-19. In what ERS describes as a working paper, the study outlined 49 U.S. non-metro counties in which 20 percent or more of employment is in meatpacking, defined as meatpacking-dependent counties. This represents 41 percent of all nonmetro counties with employment in a single manufacturing industry.
Meatpacking-dependent counties observed nearly ten times more COVID-19 cases in early May of 2020, compared to other manufacturing-dependent counties. By the beginning of July, the difference completely disappeared, driven by a reduction of cases in meatpacking-dependent counties.
The study found evidence of large differences between meatpacking communities and a comparison group during the initial industry outbreak, which disappeared after implementing workplace safety precautions.
While the study cannot verify that the implemented safety precautions were singlehandedly responsible for the change, it provides evidence that improved working conditions reduced COVID-19 spread.
(From the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)