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Pennsylvania’s meat facilities getting hit hardest by COVID-19 in U.S., CDC says

According to the CDC, Pennsylvania has the largest number of meat processing facilities and workers in those plants affected by COVID-19 in the U.S.

And it’s possible those numbers are much higher than what’s being reported.

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Tom Friday's Market and Butcher Shop in Brighton Heights has been around since 1955, but the pandemic is causing a major strain.

“The trucks that are coming in that are usually full – the tractor trailers from out west – are empty basically,” said Friday. “Our coolers are full … that's this week. Hopefully, it will stay that way. I'm really not sure.”

Meat packaging facilities nationwide are COVID-19 hotspots, but for plants in Pa., the data is especially tough.

Twelve positive coronavirus cases have been reported out of the Smithfield Plant in Arnold, Channel 11 News confirmed through the meatpackers union. That’s an increase of six cases since April.

The CDC says Pa. has 22 meat processing facilities affected by coronavirus and 858 workers who have been sickened. That's the most reported by any state by a long shot.

Here is why many fear the numbers are higher than what has been reported:

  • Meat packaging facilities voluntarily report the number of cases and deaths, so we aren't seeing all the data.
  • Testing capacity is limited. If you aren't being tested, there is no data.
  • There is a backlog in cases reported.

The CDC is reporting one death among workers in the packaging plants, but a union representative told Channel 11 there are actually four deaths in six of the facilities he represents.

So, what does this mean for our food supply?

“Almost all our suppliers are affected. They’re getting cut back,” Friday said. “The staples – ground beef, roast – they’re buying everything actually. Nobody is really sure what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen. We just have to get through it.”

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