Will The Pandemic “Cure” America’s Addiction to Cheap Meat?

Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press via The New York Times

Eating meat is as American as apple pie, so baked into our culture and identity that President Trump declared meatpacking plants essential and ordered them to stay open. Even so, CNN reports that some plants are such virus hotspots they have had to close or slow production and as a result reduced pork slaughter capacity by 25% and beef slaughter capacity by 10%, according to UFCW. Some grocery chains such as Costco and Kroger are limiting the amount of meat consumers can buy, and prices are spiking too.  Meanwhile, plant-based meats are flying off the shelves.

Why This Matters:  Thanks to the virus, Americans may now be forced to learn how to eat less meat and why that might be good for them.  The horrors of the meatpacking and industrial agriculture systems are good reasons to slow meat consumption, in addition to the climate benefits.  But for most Americans, this would require changing a part of our national identity and that will take some convincing.  That’s why we need more public campaigns and media coverage of Americans enjoying meals of fish and how, as CNN explains, the “potential for reduced meat consumption as the result of shortages could have a silver lining for Americans’ health.”

Changing Minds

Clearly necessity, fear, and guilt over the dangers of meatpacking plants will change American behavior in the short run.  But systemic and cultural change will take time.  Still, perhaps one more Americans try them, they will like them.  They might have to get used to eating these products because the largest beef producer in the US said the impact of the novel coronavirus will be felt across the meat industry for months. The Verge reported that grocery stores are seeing sales skyrocketing of products like Beyond Meat and Tofurky  — they were up 264 percent during a nine-week period ending on May 2nd, according to The Wall Street Journal. By comparison, retail sales overall dropped 16.4 percent from March to April.

And then there are organizations like the Food for Climate League, a new nonprofit organization, founded by two health-conscious moms “to redefine sustainable eating and help businesses, nonprofits and governments promote food that’s good for both humans and the planet.”  The founders, Eve Turow-Paul and Sophie Egan explained in The Washington Post that they got “seed” funding from Google and are now working with leaders in the food industry from Unilever, Sodexo, and Future Food Institute to change the conversation about what is good American food.  Their goal is to promote sustainable food offerings and make them the choice of consumers who want to eat healthily and also do what they can to tackle the climate crisis.

Up Next

Bayer Forging Ahead with New GE Corn That Can Withstand 5 Herbicides

Bayer Forging Ahead with New GE Corn That Can Withstand 5 Herbicides

Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, is “forging ahead” with developing genetically engineered (GE) crops that could be used with at least five herbicides at once, Lisa Held reported last week in Civil Eats.

Why This Matters:  The fact that Bayer is likely to get approval for this new crop, which would be resistant to the active chemical in Roundup, suggests that the losses in court had and will continue to have little impact on the company’s trajectory. Just because these herbicides won’t “harm” GE corn does not mean they won’t harm us.

Continue Reading 508 words
Heroes of the Week: LGBTQ Farmers Changing Hearts and Minds Through Food

Heroes of the Week: LGBTQ Farmers Changing Hearts and Minds Through Food


As Pride Month has come to a close, we wanted to recognize members of the LGBTQ+ community who are breaking down barriers —  gastronomic and cultural.  Earlier this week a blog on Ecowatch.com called Food Tank spotlighted 24 collectives, farms, and other organizations that are working to strengthen LGBTQ+ representation in the food system, which […]

Continue Reading 179 words
US Fishing Industry Hopes You Will #EatSeafoodAmerica

US Fishing Industry Hopes You Will #EatSeafoodAmerica

With supermarkets running low on meat, seafood is a healthy option, and sales of frozen seafood like shrimp and canned seafood (much of which is imported) are up over last year, according to some retailers.  Most of the domestic seafood landed and sold in the U.S. comes from small fishing businesses and goes to restaurants and those sales are down as much as 95% across the country.

Why This Matters:  Congress provided $300m for fishers in stimulus funding, but it is only a “drop in the bucket” of what is needed to keep fishers afloat said Alaskan commercial fisher Julie Decker on Tuesday at a forum convened by the Ocean Caucus Foundation.

Continue Reading 599 words