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Meat shortages are looming across U.S. and Canada – Treehugger

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Numerous meat processing plants have shut down, due to COVID-19, raising questions about food security and diet.

In the last few weeks, several large meat processing plants in the United States and Canada have shut down, due to outbreaks of COVID-19. Tyson’s beef facility in Pasco, Washington, has closed indefinitely, as has two of its big pork plants. Smithfield’s pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has also shut down. Bloomberg reports, “At least eight major U.S. meat facilities have seen halts in the space of a few weeks.” In Canada, three huge facilities process 95 percent of the country’s beef, and two of them have reported COVID-19 outbreaks. One in Alberta has just shut down, with no foreseeable date to reopen.

This raises many tough and pressing questions: Why are employees at these plants such prime candidates for spreading the virus? How has meat production become so centralized, thus making the food supply precarious when shutdowns occur? Will there be meat shortages, and how does that affect farmers?

Regarding the first question, Gosia Wozniacka writes for Civil Eats that “COVID-19’s rapid spread among the ranks of food processing workers was sadly predictable.” Conditions for these workers are notoriously bad. They work “shoulder to shoulder in crowded, enclosed spaces,” with limited access to protective equipment and no plexiglass barriers, on production lines that have been speeding up in recent months, due to new waivers approved by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Many of the workers are undocumented migrants who do not have benefits to cover health care costs or time off work. And when an employer offers a $500 bonus to show up at work during the pandemic (as JBS SA has done), it’s a tough offer to turn down.

As for centralization, the number of meat packing plants has shrunk in the past 30 years. There were 119 federally inspected beef processors in Canada in 1988, but now there are only 20, according to the Toronto Star. Many of the smaller facilities have been unable to compete. They can’t “achieve greater production efficiencies in a high-cost sector, buy cattle from ranchers for better prices, and meet rigorous inspection and quality regulations,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director at Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab. In the words of Elaine Powers, a professor at Queen’s University:

“People have been sounding the alarm on it for a while, but no one pays any attention unless there’s a problem. It works for big multinational corporations because they make lots of profit, but there’s a price. The price right now is the security of the food supply.”

© wanaktek via Twenty20

And that supply is under threat. While the U.S. has roughly a two-week supply of meat in frozen storage, after that people can expect to see empty shelves at the grocery store because any factory shutdown will last at least two weeks for safety reasons. Not only will shoppers be out of a key ingredient and meatpacking employees out of a job, but farmers with livestock on hand are left with few options for where to send their animals for slaughter. Wozniacka says,

“Already, some feedlot owners fear they may have difficulty selling their cattle. Economists estimate processing plant closures may result in falling cattle and market hog prices. And at least one chicken processing company has said it will be forced to cull – or kill – up to two million chickens due to staff shortages.”

It’s clear that we need a different way of approaching food processing in order to avoid future instability. A decentralized approach to meat processing, with more regional facilities, could reduce vulnerability to closures and open up markets for farmers. Fewer workers could be affected by shutdowns, if they occur, because there would be spread out among more facilities. All of this drives up the cost, however, which means that people need to be willing to pay more for meat; and, as Charlebois tells the Toronto Star, “The architecture of the industry is a product of what we want as consumers: we want cheap food.”

I like to think this is changing; at the very least, I see it shifting in my own community, where the local food co-op is so swamped with orders for regionally-produced foods that it shut down for a week to get through the backlog. As more local food producers embrace online stores, becoming more accessible to buyers who may not have supported them previously, their market share will grow. CBC reported last week that 50 percent of respondents to a Dalhousie University study say they intend to buy more local products once the pandemic is over. (Last week the number was 42 percent.)

I hope, too, that empty meat shelves will encourage people to experiment with plant-based eating, whether spurred by necessity, a desire to save money, or a sense of disgust at the dirtiness of the meatpacking industry. First there was mad cow disease, then swine flu, and now this – more proof of the connection between meat consumption and infectious diseases. Combined with the sped-up processing lines and fewer safety inspections, eating industrially-raised meat is enough to make anyone squeamish.

It remains to be seen how long these closures last and what shortages will look like, but one thing is for sure – there’s never been a better time to start experimenting in your kitchen with tofu, chickpeas, and beans.

Meat shortages are looming across U.S. and Canada

Numerous meat processing plants have shut down, due to COVID-19, raising questions about food security and diet.

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National unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs: StatCan – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada clawed back 289,600 jobs in May as provincial governments began easing public health restrictions and businesses reopened, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Still, the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate, which topped the previous record of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982, came as more people started looking for work.

The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women in May, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.

The increase in the number of jobs — which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. — came after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

Combined with the increase in jobs, Statistics Canada said the country recovered 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rise in the overall unemployment to 13.7 per cent, the highest on record, shouldn’t be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, since it simply represents more out-of-work Canadians stating that they are now looking for work,” CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote in a note.

“The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there’s still a long road back.”

Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10.

Combined with people working more hours, the province recovered nearly 30 per cent of what it lost in March and April.

Similarly, all four provinces in Atlantic Canada posted jobs gains in May. Western provinces posted gains except for Saskatchewan, which saw little overall change in employment, Statistics Canada said.

Losses continued in Ontario although at a slower pace than in March and April. The provincial unemployment rate rose to 13.6 per cent in May, up from 11.3 per cent in April.

The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.

At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren’t actively looking for a job, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren’t counted in unemployment figures.

The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work — largely unchanged since April.

TD senior economist Brian DePratto noted that close to 90 per cent of those who lost work over March and April are still sitting on the sidelines.

Lower-wage workers were among the first and hardest hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants or hotels that closed early in the pandemic.

Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-tenth of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to have a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.

The number of jobs men gained in May outpaced gains by women, who had seen significant job losses early on in the pandemic. Women with children under age six also saw slower job gains than those with older children.

Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.

“Women, low-paid workers, and racialized workers continue to struggle disproportionately,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“While women and youth are re-entering the job market, job offers continue to be scarce.”

A quick look at Canada’s May employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • Unemployment rate: 13.7 per cent (13.0)
  • Employment rate: 52.9 per cent (52.1)
  • Participation rate: 61.4 per cent (59.8)
  • Number unemployed: 2,619,200 (2,418,300)
  • Number working: 16,474,500 (16,184,900)
  • Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 29.4 per cent (27.2)
  • Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 11.1 per cent (10.8)
  • Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 11.8 per cent (11.3)

Here are the jobless rates last month by province (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • Newfoundland and Labrador 16.3 per cent (16.0)
  • Prince Edward Island 13.9 per cent (10.8)
  • Nova Scotia 13.6 per cent (12.0)
  • New Brunswick 12.8 per cent (13.2)
  • Quebec 13.7 per cent (17.0)
  • Ontario 13.6 per cent (11.3)
  • Manitoba 11.2 per cent (11.4)
  • Saskatchewan 12.5 per cent (11.3)
  • Alberta 15.5 per cent (13.4)
  • British Columbia 13.4 per cent (11.5)

Statistics Canada also released seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average unemployment rates for major cities. It cautions, however, that the figures may fluctuate widely because they are based on small statistical samples. Here are the jobless rates last month by city (numbers from the previous month in brackets):

  • St. John’s, N.L. 10.5 per cent (9.7)
  • Halifax 10.5 per cent (8.9)
  • Moncton, N.B. 8.8 per cent (7.0)
  • Saint John, N.B. 11.1 per cent (9.5)
  • Saguenay, Que. 13.3 per cent (11.1)
  • Quebec City 11.9 per cent (9.5)
  • Sherbrooke, Que. 10.9 per cent (9.2)
  • Trois-Rivieres, Que. 13.0 per cent (9.8)
  • Montreal 14.0 per cent (10.5)
  • Gatineau, Que. 11.0 per cent (8.9)
  • Ottawa 7.7 per cent (6.3)
  • Kingston, Ont. 10.8 per cent (7.9)
  • Peterborough, Ont. 9.5 per cent (7.7)
  • Oshawa, Ont. 10.1 per cent (8.5)
  • Toronto 11.2 per cent (7.9)
  • Hamilton, Ont. 10.3 per cent (7.5)
  • St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont. 12.6 per cent (9.9)
  • Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ont. 10.3 per cent (7.8)
  • Brantford, Ont. 11.3 per cent (9.4)
  • Guelph, Ont. 12.9 per cent (8.6)
  • London, Ont. 11.7 per cent (8.9)
  • Windsor, Ont. 16.7 per cent (12.9)
  • Barrie, Ont. 11.6 per cent (9.1)
  • Greater Sudbury, Ont. 8.4 per cent (6.8)
  • Thunder Bay, Ont. 10.4 per cent (8.3)
  • Winnipeg 10.3 per cent (7.7)
  • Regina 10.6 per cent (8.6)
  • Saskatoon 12.4 per cent (9.8)
  • Calgary 13.4 per cent (10.8)
  • Edmonton 13.6 per cent (10.0)
  • Kelowna, B.C. 9.6 per cent (8.1)
  • Abbotsford-Mission, B.C. 7.5 per cent (5.9)
  • Vancouver 10.7 per cent (7.5)
  • Victoria 10.1 per cent (7.2)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020

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National unemployment rate hits new record; Bombardier to cut 2500 jobs; Ontario lifting restrictions on short-term rentals – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.

10:40 p.m.: The White House’s coronavirus task force has all but vanished from public view as President Donald Trump pushes Americans to put the outbreak behind them and resume normal social and economic life.

The task force was once a staple of Trump’s response to the pandemic. From March 4 until late April, the panel held nearly daily, televised briefings at the White House, many headlined by Trump. Its medical experts fanned out across TV networks to share guidance on curbing the spread of the virus.

The last briefing was April 27, when Trump predicted the U.S. would suffer between 60,000 and 70,000 deaths from the outbreak. At least 107,000 Americans have died.

10:00 a.m.: North Durham communities continue to see new reported COVID-19 cases.

In Uxbridge, Durham Region Health has reported 85 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Monday, June 1st. 27 people are in isolation. They list 39 of the cases as resolved. One person is in hospital because of COVID-19. 18 people in Uxbridge have died from the virus.

They list Scugog as having 17 cases. Two people are in isolation, and 15 of the cases have resolved.

Brock Township has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19. Five people are in isolation, and three cases have resolved.

Region wide, Durham has 1,472 confirmed cases. 137 people are in isolation, 24 people are in a hospital. 175 Durham residents have died due to the virus. 1,136 cases have resolved.

9:50 a.m.: India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record spike in new coronavirus cases — more than 9,800 in 24 hours.

India now has 226,770 confirmed cases with 6,348 deaths, 273 of them in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. It says the overall rate of recovery for coronavirus patients is around 48%.

9:30 a.m.: The U.S. unemployment rate fell unexpectedly in May to 13.3% — still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression — as states loosened their coronavirus lockdowns and businesses began recalling workers.

The government said Friday that the economy added 2.5 million jobs last month, driving unemployment down from 14.7% in April.

The May job gain, which confounded economists’ expectations of another round of severe losses, suggests that thousands of stores, restaurants, gyms and other companies reopened and rehired more quickly than many analysts had forecast.

9:00 a.m.: Ontario’s for-profit nursing homes employ, on average, 17 per cent fewer full-time and part-time workers compared to non-profit and municipal homes, according to a Star analysis of union staffing data.

The Star found that for every 100 beds in for-profit long-term-care homes there were 99 unionized workers, compared to 115 for every 100 beds in non-profit homes and 124 for every 100 beds in municipal homes. The Star’s analysis is based on pre-pandemic staffing levels.

Read the full Star Exclusive by Brendan Kennedy and Kenyon Wallace.

8:30 a.m. (updated): Statistics Canada reports a record high unemployment rate as the economy added 289,600 jobs in May, with businesses reopening amid easing public health restrictions.

The unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, topping the previous high of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982 in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as more people started looking for work.

8:15 a.m.: Europe could have its free travel zone up and running again by the end of the month, but travellers from further afield will not be allowed in before July, European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Friday after talks among the bloc’s interior ministers.

Panicked by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy in February, countries in the 26-nation Schengen area — where people and goods move freely without checks — imposed border restrictions without consulting their neighbours to try to keep the disease out. The moves caused traffic jams and blocked medical equipment.

6:30 a.m.: Bombardier says it will lay off 2,500 workers from the aviation side of the company because of the pandemic’s impact on its markets.

The transportation firm said the majority of the reductions will impact manufacturing operations in Canada and will take place progressively throughout the year.

Bombardier says it has to adjust its operations to ensure it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis in a strong position.

It says industry-wide business jet deliveries are forecast to be down by 30 per cent year-over-year due to the pandemic.

5:50 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to offer premiers billions in federal funding to help them safely reopen provincial and territorial economies without triggering an explosive second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Precise details, including how to allocate each province’s share of the cash, are to be negotiated in the coming days, but federal officials hope agreements can be reached quickly to get the money flowing fast.

5:50 a.m.: Ontario is lifting restrictions on short-term rentals today.

Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli says the facilities were able to resume operations as of 12:01 a.m.

Lodges, cabins, cottages, homes, condominiums and bed-and-breakfast rentals are all included in the reopening.

Ontario’s tourism minister said Thursday the sector had been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the province may not see its visitor levels return to 2019 levels until 2024.

5:45 a.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled an earlier decision to impose a new, two-day weekend curfew in 15 of the country’s provinces.

Erdogan said on Twitter Friday that the curfew would “lead to different social and economic consequences.”

5:00 a.m.: Across Toronto, many neighbourhoods known for their independent, distinctive characters are at risk of seeing local institutions close, businesses owners and analysts say.

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A survey published April 23 by Restaurants Canada found that one in two independent restaurants didn’t expect to survive the following three months without improved conditions.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

4:00 a.m.: There are 93,726 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada, according to The Canadian Press, including 7,637 deaths, 51,501 resolved.

This breaks down as follows (NOTE: The Star does its own count for Ontario, updates to come later this morning):

  • Quebec: 52,143 confirmed (including 4,885 deaths, 17,098 resolved)
  • Alberta: 7,091 confirmed (including 146 deaths, 6,611 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 2,632 confirmed (including 166 deaths, 2,265 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,058 confirmed (including 61 deaths, 995 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 648 confirmed (including 11 deaths, 608 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 287 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 284 resolved), 11 presumptive
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 261 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 256 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 136 confirmed (including 1 death, 120 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases

3:33 a.m.: South Africa has seen its largest daily jump in new coronavirus cases.

The 3,267 new cases bring the country’s total to 40,792. More than 27,000 of those are in the Western Cape province centred on the city of Cape Town.

South Africa has the most virus cases in Africa, where the total number is now above 163,000.

The continent still represents less than 3% of the global total of cases but South Africa and Egypt are hot spots, and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is another growing concern with more than 11,000 cases and relatively little testing for the virus.

Shortages of testing and medical equipment remain a challenge across the 54-nation continent, where just 1,700 tests are being carried out per 1 million people.

3 a.m.: Muslims in Indonesia’s capital held their first communal Friday prayers as mosques closed by the coronavirus outbreak for nine weeks reopened at half capacity.

Authorities checked temperature and sprayed hand sanitizers at the entrance to the mosques, and police and soldiers ensured the faithful observed social distancing and wore masks.

Thursday 5 p.m.: Ontario health units report 31,153 cases of COVID-19, up 346, and that 2,419 people have died, which is an increase of 46, the highest total of deaths since May 20; 38 of these were in Toronto. With 183 new COVID-19 cases, the city also accounted for more than half the province’s of total cases today.

Thursday 2:45 p.m.: The Pittsburgh Penguins announce that one of their players has tested positive for COVID-19. The player, who wasn’t identified, is recovering and doing well, the team said. He’s isolating himself at home.

The NHL is working toward a plan to resume the 2019-20 season with 24 teams playing out of two hub cities. The league has said it plans to test players on a daily basis if play resumes.

Read more of Thursday’s coverage here.

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BREAKING: Canadian job market surprises with 289,600 added in May despite COVID-19 – Yahoo Canada Finance

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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Canadian economy added 289,600 jobs in May, as parts of the economy reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economists were expecting 500,000 jobs would be lost during the period.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The unemployment rate went up to 13.7 per cent according the the data from Statistics Canada, which is a record-high since data became available in 1976.” data-reactid=”25″>The unemployment rate went up to 13.7 per cent according the the data from Statistics Canada, which is a record-high since data became available in 1976.

The majority (219,400) of the jobs created were full-time positions.

Timing played a big role in the job creation surge.

“Labour Force Survey (LFS) results for May reflect labour market conditions as of the week of May 10 to May 16,” said Statistics Canada in its report.

“By then, some provinces had begun to re-evaluate and gradually ease public health and other restrictions, including allowing some non-essential businesses to re-open.”

Quebec accounted for nearly 80 per cent of the jobs created.

Ontario, which along with Quebec has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, was the only province to lose jobs in May.

Trevin Stratton, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Economist and VP of Policy, called the numbers the “Schrodinger’s cat of job” markets. He says we shouldn’t read too much into them.

“It is indeed a strange time when we react favorably to slowing job losses that by any standard measure would be catastrophic. Today’s figures (290,000 jobs gained, but 13.7% unemployment) are both terrible and positive at the same time,” he said in a release.

We are still in an unprecedented economic downturn, but the unemployment rate is slowing. Canada avoided the worst-case economic scenario and the economic impact on the global economy has peaked, according to the Bank of Canada’s latest outlook.

Brendon Bernard, economist at Indeed, says there are signs of encouragement including a rise in jobs postings. But a number of factors will determine how a recovery plays out.

“How much the re-opening of shuttered areas of the economy boosts net-employment growth will in-part depend on whether layoffs slow,” said Bernard.

“Growth in CERB applicants has eased through early June, but haven’t stopped, suggesting shockwaves from the pandemic continue to reverberate throughout the labour market. Durability of the rebound is going to require Canadians to have reason for optimism about the outlook for the economy, and the public health situation.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Canadian economy shed around 3 million jobs in March and April.” data-reactid=”38″>The Canadian economy shed around 3 million jobs in March and April.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;@jessysbains.” data-reactid=”39″>Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for&nbsp;Apple&nbsp;and&nbsp;Android.” data-reactid=”40″>Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for Apple and Android.

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