The pandemic has helped boost the plant-based movement. It compelled countless Americans to look into ways to bolster their immunity, and a well-rounded plant-based diet does just that and so much more. And in the supermarket aisles, many consumers turned to plant-based foods during the pandemic, whether in the form of alternative meats, cauliflower crusts, or turmeric tea. Even as the pandemic continues its decline (we hope), sales of plant-based proteins are still gaining and people are buying more plant-based proteins than ever.

Unfortunately, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking a big step to combat all this progress during these difficult times: The USDA is investing $500 million to grow and support meat processing capacity in the United States, as this July 9th press release from the federal department shared. As part of President Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the funds are intended to be used to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers, food workers, and consumers alike. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing, and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in the same media statement. “To shift the balance of power back to the people, USDA will invest in building more, better, and fairer markets for producers and consumers alike.

The investments USDA will make in expanding meat and poultry capacity, along with the restoration of the Packers and Stockyards Act, will begin to level the playing field for farmers and ranchers. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the food system so it is more resilient to shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds.”

With frequent COVID-19 processing plant shutdowns following coronavirus outbreaks at such facilities, meat being a known saboteur of our health, and the cruel treatment of animals at these slaughterhouses, we think the USDA’s goal to “build a better food system” with this investment is far off the mark. Now, more than ever, there’s growing awareness that meat consumption can destroy our health, and during the coronavirus pandemic, doctors have even sued the USDA to test meat and poultry for the transmission of COVID-19. In light of the pandemic, some doctors are even telling their patients to go plant-based, and this advice may be even more important for Black patients, traditionally underserved by our healthcare system.

Last year, meat sales declined for the first time in six years, so this tremendous investment to boost the output of meat and poultry facilities in the US is a terrifying move in the wrong direction for our health, our planet, and animals. We hope that Vice President Kamala Harris — a known proponent of reducing red meat consumption and eater of tasty vegan tacos — steps in to help halt these horrifying efforts.

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