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Groups Call on Consumers to Boycott Large-Scale Meat Producers

An analysis of data from the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture estimates that 99% of U.S. farm animals are located on factory farms. (Adobe Stock)
An analysis of data from the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture estimates that 99% of U.S. farm animals are located on factory farms. (Adobe Stock)
July 14, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The corporate meat industry is the target of a new campaign that asks consumers to boycott products from large operations. Those behind the effort point to recent situations in Iowa as examples of longstanding issues that need to be resolved, and cite a wide range of issues including worker safety, animal welfare, environmental impact and consumer health.

The "Boycott Big Meat" campaign is being led by a number of organizations, including the Organic Consumers Association. That group's international director, Ronnie Cummins, said they hope the power of consumers gets the attention of policymakers, as well as the industry itself.

"We're calling on consumers to think when they pull out their wallet and to stop buying meat from the big meat companies," Cummins said.

Instead, the campaign suggests consumers turn to items produced in ways that aren't as harmful to the environment and come from smaller, independent operations where safety and fair wages are a priority.

Workplace protections were a key issue at a number of meat plants in Iowa and other states this past spring, as coronavirus cases soared at several facilities. A key trade group, the North American Meat Institute, did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Darryl Morin, Forward Latino president, said they want to ensure the industry is held accountable for exploiting meat-plant workers, many of whom are people of color, during the COVID-19 crisis.

"We are seeing lives lost to the interest of corporate profits," Morin said.

Sherri Dugger, executive director at the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, said they want Congress to approve measures such as the House version of the Farm Systems Reform Act, which she said could help level the playing field when it comes to regulating meat producers.

"We really want to push for policy that helps to transform these rural communities where these operations exist - these industrial operations, meat-packing plants, as well as the concentrated animal feeding operations - that we want to help transition to a better food system," Dugger said.

The coalition said that includes products considered organic and regenerative that are pasture-raised and come from grass-fed animals.

The Farm Systems Reform Act would place an immediate moratorium on the construction of new or expanding large factory farms, while phasing out existing operations. Opponents of the bill say it could lead to higher costs for consumers.

But the coalition argues cheaper products that come from big factories result in a lot of hidden costs, including taxpayer-funded subsidies and environmental clean-up and health care costs related to harmful drugs and chemicals in the products.

Disclosure: Organic Consumers Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Environment, Rural/Farming, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA