According to collaborative investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return(FAIRR), meat producers are vulnerable to pandemics—but also a key factor in their creation.
A new report, titled “An Industry Infected,” warned investors of COVID-19’s continuing impact on meat production. FAIRR suggested that following the pandemic, the meat industry will likely receive increased scrutiny and mandatory regulation to minimize the risk of disease.
Additional safety procedures, surveillance, vaccinations for both workers and animals, and biosecurity training may be incompatible with the factory farming model as it is. FAIRR found that 73 percent of the world’s largest meat producers currently scored as “high risk” in its Pandemic Ranking.
Global companies such as JBS and Venky’s—both of which supply mainstream chains such as McDonald’s—were highlighted along with 44 others for the “inability to prevent the emergence of new zoonotic diseases.”
“Meat processing plants are at the centre of COVID-19 outbreaks worldwide,” explained the report. “The industrialised model of animal production has been optimised to prioritise both cost and production efficiency, at the expense of multiple other factors including worker safety, biosecurity and ultimately, resilience.”
Factory Farming and Pandemics
Factory farms—or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations—house animals in huge numbers and in close proximity to one another. This type of farming causes health problems in the animals, workers, and neighboring communities.
Factory farming creates pollution in various forms which can damage the local environment via the air, water, and land. Ineffective waste management, in particular, can also lead to the contamination of food with bacteria. Some experts believe that overcrowded pigs and poor waste management contributed to the initial outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu.
Animal welfare charity Viva! recently called for a permanent end to factory farming and the closure of all meat processing plants. Reports link over 25,000 cases of COVID-19 to meatpacking facilities in the U.S. While Germany recently re-introduced lockdown measures after serious outbreaks in several meat processing plants.
Reports indicate similar outbreaks in plants and slaughterhouses around the world, including in the UK, Spain, Australia, Brazil, and Canada.
“The link between intensive animal farming and disease outbreak is clear,” said Dr. Justine Butler, a senior researcher at Viva! Health. “The Covid-19 pandemic is just one in a long
line of zoonotic diseases which have been caused by the consumption and exploitation of animals.”