Select Subcommittee Expands Investigation into Coronavirus Outbreaks at Meatpacking Plants

Sep 15, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (September 15, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent letters requesting documents and information from Cargill and National Beef Packing Company (National Beef) as part of the Select Subcommittee’s ongoing investigation into coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants. The inquiries follow reports that the coronavirus severely impacted workers in meat processing plants across the country, resulting in a significant number of illnesses and deaths in the plants and their surrounding communities.

Chairman Clyburn wrote to each company: “The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is continuing its investigation into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on workers in the meatpacking industry. We are concerned that the scale of coronavirus infection in American meat processing plants may have been greater than previously believed.  These concerns are reinforced by both our initial investigation and press reports alleging that meatpacking companies failed to take adequate precautions to protect their workers’ health during the pandemicendangering workers, their communities, and the nation’s food supply.”

On February 1, 2021, the Select Subcommittee sent letters to Tyson Foods, Smithfield, and JBS USA, three of the nation’s largest meatpacking companies.  Today’s letters expand the Select Subcommittee’s inquiry following independent reports indicating that:

  • National Beef, a leading supplier of beef with annual sales of $9.4 billion, has had at least 1,435 workers infected.  One study found that plants run by National Beef had a coronavirus case rate three to five times higher than plants run by other large companies.
  • Cargill, with more than three dozen processing facilities in the U.S. and Canada, has had at least 1,394 workers infected.  In at least one instance, a large outbreak in a Cargill facility was tied to further community spread, including into a nearby retirement community.

Last week, the Biden-Harris Administration released an analysis showing that the meatpacking industry has been prioritizing its own profits over consumers, farmers, and ranchers.

“As the White House reported last week, at the same time that workers endured difficult conditions, gross profits for some of the nation’s largest beef, poultry, and pork processors reached their highest levels in history,” Chairman Clyburn’s letters continued.  “These record profits come at a time when consumers are paying more to put food on the table and workers are risking their health and safety to keep America fed.  Taken together this information paints a concerning picture:  a critical industry, amid an unprecedented national crisis, prioritizing the maximization of short-term profits above the well-being of American workers and consumers.”

The Select Subcommittee is seeking documents and information from each company related to coronavirus infections and deaths at meatpacking plants, coronavirus vaccination rates, and the enforcement of worker protections.  The letters request these responses by September 29, 2021.

Click here to read today’s letters to Cargill and National Beef.

 

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117th Congress