The Fern discusses what needs to change in America’s food system. From paying workers a living wage to diversifying the supply chain, the coronavirus crisis has exposed fundamental problems with how food is produced and distributed in this country. We asked a group of leaders to explain what needs to change. The novel coronavirus crisis has made it impossible to ignore the fundamental weaknesses of our system of food production and distribution — from a reliance on farm and restaurant workers who are underpaid and largely unprotected, to the fragility of a supply chain that is highly concentrated and centralized. Highly efficient, this system evolved to fulfill expectations of endless choice, immediate service, high yields and low prices – but it has come at a cost. Now, the country is experiencing food shortages, massive food waste, and rising hunger, while food processing plants have become hotspots of Covid-19. The crisis also has elevated conversations about how to solve these systemic problems. We asked a handful of people who work within the system, or who study it, what needs to change.
E&E News discusses a day of reckoning dawns for industrial livestock farms. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing livestock farms and grocery stores to consider whether the meat industry is primed for a new way of doing business. Critics of industrial-scale livestock farming say the evidence has rarely been clearer. Pork processing plants have temporarily closed after workers tested positive for COVID-19. Federal meat inspectors have fallen ill by the dozens, disrupting the operations of plants that remain open. Farmers are suddenly forced to feed — or kill — tens of thousands of animals that can’t find a way to market. “This is all being laid bare right now,” said Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, an associate professor at American University’s School of International Service specializing in global environmental and agriculture policy. Consolidation into fewer, bigger companies is a long-running trend across food production, Graddy-Lovelace said, but “the meat industry is where it’s at its most extreme.” Ever-expanding livestock farms carry an environmental impact, too, as concentrated animal feeding operations with more than 2,500 pigs or 1,000 beef cattle trigger environmental regulations on manure and raise worries about greenhouse gas emissions. Lack of slaughter facilities can make those farms bigger still, for a time.