A Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Perry, Iowa, where two dozen workers tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend.Jack Kurtz/ZUMA
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President Donald Trump plans to order meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure as the nation confronts growing disruptions to the food supply from the coronavirus outbreak, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump plans to use the Defense Production Act to order the companies to stay open during the pandemic, and the government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance, according to the person.
Trump just plays for the crowd every chance he gets, doesn’t he? I mean, I’m a big time carnivore, but even I don’t think meat is critical infrastructure. I can make do with bread and cheese and fruit for a while if I have to.
But his base hears “meat shortage” and goes cuckoo, so Trump sees a chance to show them whose side he’s on. And it’s not the side of liberal elites, that’s for sure. Nor is it the side of the brown-skinned people who mostly work in packing houses these days. However, I’m sure they’ll be mollified by Trump’s promise of “guidance” to their bosses.
Aside from the obvious bad news here—meat packing workers dying of coronavirus—there’s a more subtle bit of bad news. Right now, people can be kinda sorta sure that if a plant has a coronavirus breakout it will be shut down, thus ensuring that the meat you buy is safe no matter where it comes from. But now? People might start to worry that Trump is forcing everyone to stay open regardless of whether their meat is safe. And since there’s no way to know which packing plant your meat comes from, you might just decide to avoid all meat. I don’t know how likely this is, but it’s something to think about. When the same thing happened to financial instruments in 2008, the entire world economy went belly up.
POSTSCRIPT: The alternative to Trump’s executive order is for the USDA to step up testing at meat packing plants and issue strict new workplace rules for the duration of the pandemic. But that’s just stupid, I guess.