Surging Pork Prices Highlight Pandemic Debates Sweeping America


Millie Munshi, Bloomberg

via Yahoo Finance - May 14, 2020


(Bloomberg) -- The meat crisis is reverberating across America. Not just because of the obvious concerns over supplies, but also because it hits right at the center of a number of debates stirred up by the pandemic.


Itís pitting the quick restart for economies against human toll, as deaths among meat-plant workers continue to rise. But it also shows the cost of prolonged lockdowns, with consumers suffering though higher prices and farmers facing an unprecedented backlog of animals and low prices.


Retail prices for pork chops gained 7.6% in April, the biggest monthly increase since data begin in 1998. In the same month, hog futures hit the lowest in more than three years. While livestock prices have recovered some ground, producers are still faced with the prospect of the first decline in output since 2014.


The contention largely falls in line with the political ruptures of America. Farmers and large meat companies are eager to see plants restart, echoing the calls of red-state voters who say economic concerns should take priority. Meanwhile, hard-hit coastal blue states are insisting on increased testing and tracking as a condition for reopening schools and businesses.


There are also a number of socioeconomic divides pushed to the spotlight. Meat workers are made up of some of the U.S.ís most vulnerable communities. About half are immigrants, and almost three-quarters are either Hispanic or Black, demographics that have been hit disproportionately hard by the virus, both in health terms and economically...