Knowledge for better food systems

Meat plants around the world struggle with COVID-19

According to this article in the Guardian, slaughterhouses in several countries are being badly affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, with the US being particularly affected. The factors behind the outbreaks are thought to include crowded working conditions, a workforce who often live in shared houses, people working despite being ill because of economic insecurity, and the slaughterhouses not being shut down during the pandemic.

The breakouts have led to millions of animals being culled at the farm and disposed of rather than eaten. The American Veterinary Medical Association has set out methods that are “preferred” and “permitted in constrained circumstances” for different species and production systems (note that the guidance preceded the COVID-19 outbreak). For example, preferred methods for culling barn-reared poultry include suffocation by foam and gassing. Other methods are permitted in certain circumstances, for example “VSD plus” (shutting down ventilation to allow death by overheating, plus additional heat sources or CO2 to hasten death) or controlled demolition of the building housing the poultry. See AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals: 2019 Edition, Millions of farm animals culled as US food supply chain chokes up and Meat plants closures mean pigs are gassed or shot instead.

Read the full article here. See also the Foodsource resource How do the climate and environment directly affect the conditions required for food production? and read other COVID-19 content in the FCRN’s research library here.

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North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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