Animal welfare report: The COVID curveball


By Joel Crews, Meat+Poultry



Animal welfare experts like Temple Grandin shared information and insight at the 2020 Animal Care & Handling Conference, held virtually last month.


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact on almost every segment of the meat and poultry industry and, more generally, the US food supply chain. The fallout from COVID-19 has also had animal welfare implications that were part of the domino effect.


For consumers, the most obvious evidence during the initial weeks of the global crisis was at grocery stores, where shortages of food extended to meat departments across the United States, and household goods like cleaning supplies and toilet paper were part of the panicked shopping that saw many consumers hoarding food and non-food goods.


While outbreaks of COVID-19 swept through the country, the spread of the virus didnít spare meat and poultry processing plants, where large-scale operationsí line workers were susceptible to exposure due to the proximity of workers who traditionally had worked shoulder to shoulder with their fellow front liners. Outbreaks at plants led to many temporary closures and drastic cutbacks in volume as companies scrambled to secure personal protection equipment and retrofit plants with workstation dividers to facilitate social distancing to minimize exposure and the potential for spreading the virus.


While plant operators and line workers coped with newly implemented protocols, educating workers, COVID-19 testing, illnesses and even deaths related to the virus, a logjam of livestock quickly developed, especially in the pork supply chain. What ensued was mass depopulation of healthy hogs as the oversupply peaked in late April.


Bigger lessons learned ...


Surplus snafus ...


Euthanasia angst ...


Depopulation lessons ...†