We have experienced wide sweeping effects of COVID-19 on the health of the population.
Today’s post is written by Ivy Ray, Senior Procurement Specialist at SafeSourcing Inc.
We have experienced wide sweeping effects of COVID-19 on the health of the population of people as well as on the economy. The meat production industry has been adversely impacted due to the nature of the work environment which includes the lack of social distancing, inadequate air filtration, and noise levels requiring workers to speak louder and spread more particles. The outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat packing plants had infected at least 2200 workers at 48 plants as of April of this year, forcing some plants to enact mandatory shut-downs.
JBS meat packing company had invested in a robotics company in 2018, to reduce its labor force in favor of machines that can do it quicker. A New Zealand company called Scott Technology has unveiled its butcher robots. A production line of a dozen robots which can strip meat from 600 lamb carcasses per hour and you only need one human to oversee the process. Many meatpacking plants use automation machinery, but the New Zealand based robotics company is developing fully automated meat processing bots, which can extract different cuts from lamb, pig, and beef carcasses which many companies believe is more efficient. The goal of these robots is to yield more meat, improve the safety of the process and do it with fewer people, eliminating the costs of human error while reducing injuries, but the costs for maintenance on these robots could slow global implementation down considerably.
Reports indicated that these robots could become main stream within the next 20 years, and the idea that a machine could replace human workers brings up all kinds of hot button political issues. Will robot butchers take the place of human workers? This is a viable consideration, as we now have the realization of the impact on human lives during a pandemic. The real dilemma is the profitability of the meat packing business versus the cost of jobs and the health and well-being of workers.
Consumers have seen a spike in meat prices due to the meat packing shut downs, and we depend on the availability of ample supply of meat at a reasonable price. The health crisis that we have experienced over the past few months has widened the gap between productivity and safety. In the future, these questions must be addressed because we do not want do sacrifice our economy at the expense of a safe and healthy work environment.
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