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is bad. the standard refrain Temple Grandin hears when she lectures students at Colorado State University on the complexities of meat processing plants.Her standard retort: isn bad. Badly managed is bad. years, she has driven home this point: that even in a rapidly consolidating sector, where many small plants processing 500 head of cattle a day have been mothballed in favour of a few mega facilities slaughtering 20,000 cows per day, high standards for animal safety and meat quality are still possible.plants can do a good job, the animal science professor and livestock handling expert said in an interview. size doesn matter very much that way. it matters an awful lot in other ways. That became clear to Grandin a number of years ago, after massive floods crippled transportation in her home state of Colorado and an ice storm devastated Eastern Canada.The supply chain can handle one large plant being closed. But when it turns into multiple plants you have a problem.Temple Grandin, animal science professor and livestock handling expertthen, I wasn thinking about a pandemic, she said. was thinking more of things like power failures, power grids going down, massive storms taking out a single plant. The supply chain can handle one large plant being closed. But when it turns into multiple plants you have a problem. isn bad, Grandin decided. is fragile. a deeply painful lesson Canada meat industry has been forced to learn as COVID 19 sweeps through North America and into the handful of plants responsible for the bulk of the country meat processing.Huge swaths of the workforce were infected in outbreaks at Cargill Inc. plant in High River, Alta., and JBS USA Holdings Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta., requiring entire operations to shut down. As the supply chain shuddered, multinationals Cargill and JBS controlling 70 per cent of Canadian beef processing at those two Alberta plants alone raced to stagger shifts, outfit staff in protective gear and retrofit facilities with plexiglass shields.The question now is whether those measures will be enough to contain the virus or if a more fundamental reimagining of meat supply chains is necessary one that would see more automation in processing, fewer cuts of beef in grocery store coolers, an unraveling of a decades long shift to large scale production and ultimately higher prices.Will the industry be changed by this? I think there’s no doubt about thatMike von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelphthe industry be changed by this? I think there no doubt about that, said Mike von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelph. have to change to mitigate the spread of infection between employees which is something we never had to think about before. Can we do it within the plants we have? I don think we know that yet. the core of the issue is a simple problem: COVID 19 thrives in crowds. And the quantity of workers inside each processing plant has only increased as production has become more concentrated. Indeed, just three plants the JBS and Cargill High River facilities together with Cargill Guelph based operation now represent 85 per cent of all Canadian beef processing.When large numbers of employees work closely together, the solution isn as simple as thinning shifts or telling staff working elbow to elbow to stand further apart.A meat plant has two main parts. The side where the animal is slaughtered, bled and skinned and the side where its innards are removed and the meat is sliced, first into halves and then quarters. These cuts are then reduced into the smaller pieces seen in grocery stores the steaks, roasts and ground beef bought in trays and boxes.Three meat packing plants turn out 85% of Canada’s beef. How did this happen?’Every Canadian is now watching Cargill:’ Meatpacking plant reopens today despite pleas from unionCanadians could face food shortages, higher prices this summer amid turmoil in supply chainOver the years, the industry has gotten better at directing specific cuts to individual markets. Indeed, Canada exports 44 per cent of its beef, mostly to the United States but also to Asian countries where parts considered waste in North America kidneys, hearts, tongues and tripe draw a good price.But producing all those cuts requires the kind of human skill that meat processors have struggled to replace.part that has the most people is the cut up, said Grandin, who was the subject of a Hollywood movie, starring Claire Danes, highlighting her work as an animal scientist. the slaughter side, the people are much further apart and it easier to pull them apart, but on the cut up side they shoulder to shoulder.