The worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are now behind the meat and poultry industry. But the largest processors still face challenges in finding workers to fully staff plants. The shortage is most acute in beef plants because they are much more labor-intensive.
The shortage has eased only slightly despite companies’ efforts to alleviate it. Meat packers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on multiple ways from early in the pandemic to protect workers. They dramatically raised starting wages (to about $22 per hour) and spent money on everything from free vaccinations and bonuses for getting the shot to free community college for children of workers. They will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year.