Covid-19 has exposed the Achilles heel of the modern US meat system. As key meatpacking plants with sickened workers have been forced to pause production, consumers are facing the prospect of meat shortages in some places and higher prices virtually everywhere. Just one meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is responsible for 5% of US pork production. When that plant and a handful of others stopped production in April because of worker illnesses, it decreased the slaughtering of beef cattle and hogs by 36% and 37% respectively, according to US Department of Agriculture data. The ripple effect was big: Already the price of meat and eggs have increased by 5%.
But the cell-based meat industry has yet to build infrastructure on a large scale. Which means it still has a chance to adopt a decentralized model that could avoid the weaknesses of the United States’ monolithic meat industry.