The connection between industrial agriculture and the spread of zoonic viruses is becoming increasingly clear. The novel coronavirus has exposed the profound vulnerabilities of our global, industrialized food system. According to scientists at the Scripps Research Institute and other research institutions, it is likely that the virus was transmitted from bats to an intermediate animal host before reaching humans (Andersen, Rambaut, Lipkin, Holmes, & Garry, 2020). The ideal intermediary would have a high population density and a similar immune system to humans to facilitate transmission. Industrially farmed pigs fit these criteria. Interestingly, Wuhan, the apparent original location of the virus, is located in Hubei Province, which is one of the largest pig-producing regions in China. These scientists suggest that, contrary to public opinion, there is a high likelihood that the coronavirus originated in an industrial pig farm rather than at a wet market (GRAIN, 2020).
The way the virus has rippled through the food system does not stop there. Meat-processing plants such as the Smithfield pork factory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have been hot spots for outbreaks (The Daily, 2020). The inequalities of our system can no longer be ignored, as some of the lowest-paid members of society—factory workers and grocery clerks—have courageously continued to work despite the health risks. Finally, as this meat makes its way through the system to the consumer, it continues to affect health outcomes. A diet high in industrialized, processed food does not produce optimal health—a major disadvantage when battling COVID-19.