President Trump insisted he was being sarcastic about injecting disinfectant, so maybe he’s just ribbing us about keeping meat processing plants open. The administration has heard the calls of Where’s the beef? after being notably hesitant in its use of the Defense of Production act, but now it’s adding some meat to that bone by using it to classify meat plants as essential infrastructure that must remain open. It’s a risky place to put a steak in the ground; playing a game of chicken with workers’ lives—one that could turn meat processing plants into slaughterhouses.
No one has any beef with the need to address the breaking food supply chain, but in this case, the move could pit an essential service against the the essentiality of staying alive. 20 meat processing plants have closed, 17 workers have died of covid-19, and at least 5,000 have been directly affected by the scourge. Safely reopening would require a level of political chops not evidenced by this president, who has split his time between talking tripe, hot dogging it on Twitter, and roasting himself during press conferences. Can Trump, a man lean on accomplishments who has slathered us with a smorgasbord of hogwash, take a cold cut at actual leadership and beat the meat risk? Don’t count your chickens. It’s a long shot any way you slice it. His circle jerky butchering of the pandemic response thus far, which has put American exceptionalism through a meat grinder, hardly inspires confidence.
Having a president who’s full of baloney doesn’t mean your grocery store will be. Boasting about playing hide the salami is not applicable to making sure it appears. While he brags about all that sweet-bread he’s made, this is a person who has turned businesses from airlines to casinos into mincemeat; and whose most applicable experience is his failed Trump Steaks business—how do you fail at selling red meat to Americans? Talk about killing the golden goose. I’m reminded of the classic Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Bobby locked themselves in Sam the Butcher’s meat freezer. That episode was well-done. I worry that this one will end with rabid Trump rally attendees chanting, Meat Locker Up, Meat Locker Up.
The drive to keep a chicken in every pot is understandable. Doing so safely is a whole different animal. After bungling every program they’ve sunk their meat hooks into, one hopes administration meatheads will bone up on the facts, and beef up on expertise, so they don’t end up choking the chicken with one hand and waving off responsibility for more American food chain dead meat with the other. For this ham-fisted team to bring home the bacon would be rare indeed (even medium rare). After more than three years of mismanagement, we’ve seen how the sausage is made (and occasionally where it’s hidden). Maybe this time things will be different (either in a pig’s eye or when pigs fly). In the best of all worlds, we could keep the food supply chain going and still protect workers. But sometimes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. And with this administration in charge, one wonders if, instead of risking more lives, we might be better off going cold turkey on meat.