Slaughterhouse Staff Say Smithfield Hid COVID-19 Cases — Endangered Workers

by | April 20, 2020

Slaughterhouse workers from Smithfield Foods — the United States’ largest producer of pork — say COVID-19 cases were concealed and employees pressured to work in unsafe conditions.

The allegations, shared in a story broken by The Intercept, pertain to the brand’s meat processing facility in Cudahy, Wisconsin.

At the time of writing, the plant has confirmed over 20 cases among its 1,000 employees and closed for cleaning and disinfection.

“There’s been people sick at the plant,” one employee told The Intercept before explaining that the company failed to release details on infections and illness — information key to protecting its staff. 

Employees described close-quarters working conditions, and a failure on Smithfield’s part to provide personal protective equipment.  

“Eventually they tried to do some social distancing in the cafeteria, but actually, they’re working elbow to elbow on the line, so there’s no social distancing there,” another employee told the publication.

woman wearing covid-19 protection mask
The company reportedly refused to provide masks to employees

Smithfield Foods Under Fire — Before & During COVID-19

This is by no means the first time Smithfield has come under fire in the media. The brand has faced significant criticism both prior to and since the outbreak of COVID-19.

In 2018, the brand faced controversy after footage of a staff member urinating on a production line leaked to the public. It had to dispose of 50,000 pounds of pig parts otherwise destined for the meat market.

In the same year, one of the factory-farming giant’s subsidiaries Murphy-Brown was ordered to pay out $50 million as financial compensation for damages to the environment and the lives and hiomes of those living near its facility in North Carolina.

This year — and since the local outbreak of COVID-19 — management at Smithfield Foods’ Sioux Falls location has been hit with criticism for offering its staff a $500 attendance bonus amid the spread of coronavirus at the slaughterhouse. The facility has since closed, after becoming a hotbed for the virus, with hundreds of COVID-19 cases among its 3,700 employees.

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