This story was originally published here.
“The herd instinct among forecasters makes sheep look like independent thinkers.” — Edgar R. Fiedler
In case you’ve missed it, meat processing and packing plants across the country are shuttering their doors as coronavirus outbreaks strike their employees.
When the news first broke, it spurred a run on grocery stores unlike anything we’d seen since all the toilet paper in the country sold out a few weeks before.
People are understandably worried about the immediate consequences of the meat packing industry shutting down — scarcity of meat products like steaks, pork chops, and chicken breasts.
But I’ve heard very few people talk about the longer-term repercussions of shutting down U.S. meat packing plants. And that’s the scarcity of meat going forward.
Culling the Herd
It’s an expression we’ve all heard, but it’s usually used metaphorically. In real life, culling the herd is probably the worst day a farmer or rancher can ever imagine.
It involves killing off your animals because you have nowhere to take them to turn them into food for a hungry nation. And it’s sad for farmers and ranchers for two reasons.
The first is the obvious one. They bought those animals, raised them, and spent a good amount of time and money in the process. Now, with nowhere to sell their livestock, they’re forced to kill them off and watch any hope of paying off bills and feeding families go down the drain.
But secondly, it’s because, despite what fraudulent groups like PETA might tell you, farmers love their livestock. They depend on those animals to feed their own families. And they don’t enjoy killing them.
But around the country, that’s exactly what farmers and ranchers are being forced to do. Herds of cattle, flocks of chicken, and passels of hogs are being slaughtered.
For an animal lover (and a meat eater) like me, it’s a devastating situation. I can get over my love of animals and eat them by knowing I’m making sure their sacrifice wasn’t wasted.
But that’s exactly what’s happening right now. All of those animals, all of that potential food, is going to waste.
And it doesn't end with meat…
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