Meat brand Farmer John—owned by pork giant Smithfield Foods which produces “Dodger Dogs” at its Vernon, CA facility—recently embarked on a 12-week “Farmer John Thank You Tour” to give out one million hot dogs to frontline workers in the greater Los Angeles area. 

“It’s our pleasure to launch the Farmer John Thank You Tour today with the first of many community visits giving back to Southern California residents for their service and undeniable bravery,” Michael Merritt, Senior Director of Brand Marketing for Farmer John at Smithfield Foods, said. “Whether providing healthcare, delivering packages, producing food, or ringing up groceries, the last few months have shown us just how ‘essential’ our essential workers are. They serve us every day, and now, it’s time to serve them.”

What Smithfield is serving are the same meat products that slaughterhouse workers risk their lives to produce amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, meat plants have increasingly become COVID-19 hot spots due to shoulder-to-shoulder working conditions that promote viral spread. In late May, labor union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)—which represents Farmer John’s employees—called for the closure of Farmer John’s Vernon meat after 153 workers tested positive for COVID-19. “Working conditions inside the plant are similar to what we are seeing nationwide in Smithfield plants,” John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, said. “Workers are still too close together on the line, in the breakroom, the bathrooms, and other such hubs.” 

Last week, the Iowa chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)—the country’s oldest and largest Latino civil-rights organization—launched its Boycott Meat campaign to raise awareness of the dangers slaughterhouse workers endure to produce meat, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to show that meat is not essential. As of June 30, approximately 26,300 COVID-19 cases have been tied to at least 244 meatpacking facilities in 33 states. Nearly 100 meat industry workers have died as a result of COVID-19, according to the most recent data compiled by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Smithfield is ranked third behind JBS and Tyson as the meat company with the highest number of COVID-19 positive workers.

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