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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's food supply chain is in trouble because of coronavirus outbreaks in rural meatpacking plant communities.

Why it matters: For consumers, this means less meat at the grocery store. For many farmers, this means the prospect of financial ruin. For many animals, this means euthanasia instead of slaughter.

The big picture: Plants in more than a dozen states have closed in recent weeks, spanning beef, pork, poultry and fish.

  • Many more plants are struggling to remain open despite significant outbreaks.
  • More than 25% of U.S. pork production is now offline because of plant closures, WashPost reports, citing industry analysts.
  • Tyson Foods described this as a "breaking" of the food supply chain, warning on Sunday that millions of animals will need to be killed without being turned into food.

Between the lines: There's also an enormous human toll taking place at these plants.

  • “It is not going to be easy to get workers six feet apart,” William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases, told the N.Y. Times. “If you space people out, you reduce productivity.”

What's next: House Agriculture Chair Collin Peterson told CNN today that he predicts shortages of pork as soon as next week.

  • Peterson estimated that 60,000–70,000 pigs a day will need to be euthanized.
  • If things don't turn around fast, "we are going to see multi­generational, longstanding [hog] farms not get through this financially," Minnesota hog farmer Greg Boerboom told the Star Tribune.

The bottom line: America's farmers have long feared that everyday citizens were clueless about how their food gets made.

  • Unfortunately, it appears that this education is now happening in a flash.

Go deeper: Why the food supply chain has been so slow to pivot

Go deeper

California wildfire explodes in size, destroys historic town

Battalion Chief Sergio Mora looks on as the Dixie fire burns through downtown Greenville, Calif. on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Josh EdelsonAFP via Getty Images

The small Sierra town of Greenville, California, was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The latest: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, continued to threaten communities in Plumas County into Thursday night, as more mandatory evacuation orders were issued in the region.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top labor leader Richard Trumka dies unexpectedly at 72

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.

Biden signs bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals to officers who responded to Jan. 6 attack

President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, lawmakers and members of law enforcement and their families, signs legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to law enforcement in the Rose Garden. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Biden signed legislation awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress' "highest expression of national appreciation," notes the New York Times.