- Tyson Foods is accelerating the development of robotic technology that will facilitate the processing of meat following a series of epidemics of coronavirus in meat packaging facilities in the United States.
- According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been a total of 16,233 cases of coronavirus in meat processing facilities in 23 states.
- Tyson has already invested $ 500 million in robotics since 2017, but CEO Noel White told the Wall Street Journal that the company plans to intensify its efforts in response to the pandemic.
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In the not-too-distant future, robots could cut and process packaged meat for Americans.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Tyson Foods would accelerate the development of robotic technology designed to manage processes such as the boning of the 39 million chickens that pass through the company’s factories every week.
While the project has been underway for several years, the meat packing company has increased the urgency around the effort following an eruption of epidemics of coronavirus in its facilities from May. Tyson, along with competitors like Smithfield Foods, quickly became hot spots for spreading the virus, making workers sick and causing temporary closures that have led to national shortages of meat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been a total of 16,233 cases of coronavirus in meat processing facilities in 23 states in the United States. As of July 10, these diseases have contributed to 86 deaths, CDC results show.
“Meat and poultry processing facilities face particular challenges in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19,” says the CDC report. “COVID-19 outbreaks among workers in meat and poultry processing plants can quickly affect large numbers of people. ”
Tyson Foods CEO Noel White told The Wall Street Journal that the company has already invested $ 500 million in robotics since 2017 and plans to accelerate the project amidst the coronavirus. Tyson currently has a dedicated facility at its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, where engineers and scientists test and develop meat processing robots.
Tyson is not the only meat giant to transform its sites into robotics. Competitors like JBC and Pilgrim’s Pride have also worked on developing similar automated robotic technologies in recent years. “They’re much closer to what the person can do than they were seven years ago,” JBS CEO Andre Nogueira told The Wall Street Journal.
While automated robots could reduce exposure to the coronavirus and help prevent employees from working nearby, some fear that they will replace human jobs in an economy that has left 21 million Americans unemployed. In addition, many of these workers are already earning relatively low wages for others in equally dangerous work sectors, averaging $ 15.92 an hour. Construction workers, for example, earn an average of $ 28.51 an hour, according to the United States Department of Labor.