The Big Meat industry provides most of the food Americans rely on to get by. These systems were long taken for granted, but the ongoing pandemic has made clear that they are rather fragile. This is partly due to their reliance on foreign goods and labours–large systems are highly centralised, and this poses a slew of risks when faced with a disruptive crisis such as COVID.
The likes of the COVID crisis has not been seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918, but signs of trouble were evident in the meat production sector for years. From floods to tornadoes, the US has faced multiple crises that negatively affect the meat industry’s infrastructure, needed to move large amounts of goods across the country in an organised, timely fashion.
Big corporations often get a bad rap for being driven by motives of profit alone. It’s a valid criticism and one that should certainly be addressed, but there’s much more to it than that. Oftentimes the problems stem from bad management, as opposed to malicious intent. This is often the case with large scale enterprises that require multiple experts to coordinate their work. They also rely on forces outside their own control, and managing them can sometimes be impossible.
It’s easy to picture the meat production industry as something akin to farming, but there’s far more to it than that. Numerous supporting industries are necessary to keep the systems operational. These industries are easily disturbed by global issues such as widespread health crises, and may need more time to recover. One prime example of this is the meat packing industry.
Another important issue causing problems in meat delivery systems is the fact that fewer independent actors are working in the field. Large companies are seeking to streamline production, effectively placing all auxiliary companies under their control. This means there is no independent trucking company or meat packing factory entering into deals with farmers and markets. As a result, a problem in one cog can negatively effect the entire machine.
In the end, there’s the issue of constant demand. Businesses these days rarely plan for halts in production. Sudden freezes in demand has left the meat industry confused, leading some farmers to slaughter and dispose of animals due to limited storage and demand. Similar problems have arisen in the oil sector, leading to futures markets seeing one of the worst days in recent memory.
These are all issues we must consider and work to improve upon in the future.