The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) released updated analysis of publicly available data on COVID-19 transmission, showing that comprehensive protections instituted since the spring of 2020 successfully lowered transmission among meatpacking workers and held case rates today to more than 98% lower than case rates in the general U.S. population. Responding to a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts commented:
“Frontline meat and poultry workers were among the first impacted by the pandemic, but publicly available data confirm that comprehensive measures implemented in the sector since spring 2020, including extensive infection prevention and vaccination efforts, have successfully protected the sector’s dedicated and diverse workforce as they have continued feeding Americans and keeping our economy working.”
According to publicly-available data from the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) and the New York Times, average new case rates in the sector have been similar to or lower than case rates in the general population since the fall of 2020. Case rates in the sector are currently 98 percent lower than the general U.S. population.
Independent scientific research proves the effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention measures like those implemented in meatpacking facilities since spring 2020. The University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the combination of universal masking and physical barriers reduced cases significantly in 62% of meat facilities studied. An analysis published in the Lancet in June 2020 found that distancing of 3 feet and use of facemasks each reduce transmission by about 80%, and use of eye protection reduces transmission by about 65%.
Meat Institute surveys shared in February 2021 of more than 250 facilities employing more than 150,000 workers have found broad implementation of multilayered COVID-19 protections including:
- COVID-19 hazard assessments; designated COVID-19 coordinators
- Entry screening measures and controls
- Increased sanitation and disinfection practices
- Training and education materials on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, in multiple languages
- Mandatory face coverings
- Increased flexibility in leave policies
- Physical barriers in food production and other areas (e.g., break rooms, cafeterias)
Meat Institute members remain fully committed to continuing these proven measures and further supporting efforts to vaccinate all frontline meat and poultry workers quickly and safely.
The meat and poultry industry was among the first to urge the Biden Administration to prioritize vaccines for essential workers. The Meat Institute partnered with the United Food Workers Union (UFCW) to urge all 50 state governors to prioritize meat and poultry workers for the vaccine.
Meat Institute members provided significant support for vaccination efforts, holding onsite clinics for vaccination, providing paid leave for workers to obtain the vaccine, offering vaccine bonuses, holding vaccine lotteries with monetary prizes, providing information sessions, vaccinating family members of workers and other members of the community and much more.
One Meat Institute member, Tyson Foods, announced recently that 96 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated, well above the U.S. vaccination rate.
More detailed information on COVID-19 protections and case rates in the industry is available here.