COVID-19 Supply Chain Impact on Farmworkers and Meat Processing Workers

53 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2021

See all articles by Marney Coleman

Marney Coleman

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Erb Institute

Grace Hermann


Date Written: July 14, 2021


At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, there were various impacts on global food supply chains, including on food systems workers. Media reports documented COVID-19 outbreaks among food systems workers in the United States, however due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, a thorough review of literature on the workplace impacts of COVID-19 on workers in our food system was scarce. This report reviews (i) the impacts of COVID-19 on global food supply chain workers; (ii) the existing and new vulnerabilities workers in this sector faced pertaining to workplace health and safety; (iii) the effectiveness of various initiatives or mechanisms to mitigate those risks; and (iv) how best practices could be incorporated into university institutional procurement practices. In order to narrow the scope of the research, this report focuses specifically on the human rights impact of COVID-19 on agricultural and meatpacking workers within the United States. Extensive interviews, as well as analysis of existing data and literature, found that the primary reason the frontline workers had a high risk of contracting COVID-19 was due to multiple pre-existing structural failures of historically eroded worker protections in the United States. Based on evidence gathered from desk research and interviews, the report coalesces around two sets of recommendations. The first is a broad set of recommendations focusing on policy and legal changes that can create greater protections for workers in these sectors. The second set of recommendations are for institutional food procurement actors, specifically universities, on actions to be taken to support values-driven procurement practices that can enhance greater protections for workers in these sectors through procurement decisions.

Keywords: COVID-19, agriculture, supply chain, farmworkers, worker-driven social responsibility, human rights, labor standards

Suggested Citation

Coleman, Marney and Hermann, Grace, COVID-19 Supply Chain Impact on Farmworkers and Meat Processing Workers (July 14, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Marney Coleman (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Erb Institute ( email )

United States

Grace Hermann

Independent ( email )

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