Meat coolers are going to look a lot different as we navigate COVID-19, but according to the Canadian Meat Council, each step of the livestock processing chain is collaborating, communicating, and committed to keeping food moving to grocery stores.

Chris White, president and CEO of the Canadian Meat Council, says the livestock processing sector is working with remarkable agility. Still, it’s clear that as staff gets ill, it creates a real challenge to keeping lines moving and the supply chain running.

White says the industry is collaborating with the federal government, public health, employee unions, and other processors to adopt health and safety protocols and address concerns as they arise.

“The supply [of meat] will be there, but it may look a little different,” he says, as processing lines adjust to social distancing measures and shifts in consumer demand.

Processing plants are increasing efforts to create social distancing space on lines, and are providing personal protective equipment to staff. Some plants are also staggering shift start times to decrease human contact between workers.

Employee unions are certainly being vocal around health and safety conditions at plants. White says that all of these discussions are in real-time with plants discussing everything they are already doing working with CFIA and public health to meet new or changed standards and navigating all the questions brought up by unions.

While health and safety of employees are paramount for all plants, the decision to close, close for the short term, or to continue operating but at reduced capacity as we are seeing in Alberta and Washington state, largely comes down to the companies and their discussions with public health, he says.

Listen to the full discussion with Chris White, here: 

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