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These Food Facilities Doubled COVID-19 Infection Rates in Their Communities, Data Says

The data is out, and it's even worse than we'd heard.

No matter what kind of relationship you have with meat, a new report is revealing a gory link between the places where some meats are processed and the way those plants contributed to COVID-19 rates in their communities. There's been buzz about this for awhile, but just-published data shows how unappetizing this really is, and whom it's affected the most.

Reports in recent months had observed a connection between meatpacking plants and COVID-19 infection rates. But this week, new data illustrates how horrible it's actually been. A study at the University of California, Davis (along with co-authors K. Aleks Schaefer with Michigan State University and Daniel Scheitrum with the University of Arizona) analyzed COVID transmission rates at large meatpacking plants, meaning those that generated more than 10 million pounds of meat per month.

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The findings may turn some stomachs, as researchers discovered that "beef- and pork-processing plants more than doubled per capita infection rates in counties that had them." That's not all: Chicken-processing plants also increased COVID-19 transmission rates in their counties by 20 percent. 

The researchers' report states that conservatively, this resulted in 334,000 COVID-19 cases throughout the country and about $11.2 billion in economic loss. Some analysts have attributed this widespread COVID-19 transmission in meatpacking facilities to a few main factors: meatpacking workers have been considered "essential" to keep the country's food supply chain in motion. Many employees also work in close physical proximity to each other on the production line. Experts also note that meatpacking facilities turning out that much product often exist in areas with high population density (meaning people in these regions probably also live closely together), while others suggest that some employees' economic circumstances simply haven't allowed them the luxury to call off work when they weren't feeling well.

For the layperson, it may also be hard not to think about the number of germs that spread around meatpacking facilities between humans and the meat itself. Some readers may find it reassuring that there continues to be more evidence of how a plant-based diet can help fight COVID-19 and many other illnesses.

A disturbing report for sure. Read up on the major macaroni and cheese brand that's being sued for alleged toxins that were harmful to children, and sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter for the food news your family needs.

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy
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