The COVID-19 pandemic has caused thousands of North American meat and poultry plant workers to become ill, causing plants where the slaughter and processing of animals raised for food to either operate with a reduced workforce, or in some cases, suspend plant operations.

While the illnesses are sad enough, adding to the sadness is the lack of processing capacity has led to the culling of several million chickens and pigs. It’s a true shame that these animals could not be used for the purpose for which they were raised, and has become a food waste issue.

Joe Reardon, North Carolina’s assistant agriculture commissioner, put it well, saying depopulation is “the very last thing that any of these farmers would ever want to do, so it would be a last resort.”

But for Olymel – the meat subsidiary of Canada’s Sollio Cooperative, formerly known as La Coop fédérée – workers at three of its plants are putting in extra hours to prevent the depopulation of hogs and keep the pork supply flowing.

On May 30, more than 800 Olymel employees at its pork facilities in Yamachiche, St-Esprit and Ange-Gardien – all in Quebec – volunteered to work overtime shifts in order to reduce the number of hogs ready for slaughter and avoid euthanizing them.

Other Olymel workers from the St-Hyancinthe plant, as well as workers from the Agromex plants in St-jean-sur-Richelieu and Sherrington also helped with the effort through packaging and storage activities.

According to Olymel, the number of hogs ready for slaughter in Quebec has never been higher, as it exceeded the 100,000 mark. Thanks to those Olymel employees willing to put in extra hours, that number has been reduced.

Philanthropic effort

Olymel and its workers not only helped bring balance to the hog supply, they also helped raise funds for underprivileged people. For every hog slaughtered on May 30, CA$2 will be donated to a charitable organization or cause chosen by the employees of each of the three plants. In addition, Olymel provided food to prepare three meals for each employee present during the additional slaughter day.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.