With restaurants, hotels and schools closed, many of the nation’s largest farms are destroying millions of pounds of fresh goods that they can no longer sell. The waste has become especially severe in the dairy industry, where cows need to be milked multiple times a day, regardless of whether there are buyers. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.
The widespread destruction of fresh food reflects the profound economic uncertainty wrought by the virus and how difficult it has been for huge sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to adjust to such a sudden change in how they must operate. The quarantines have shown just how many more vegetables Americans eat when meals are prepared for them in restaurants than when they have to cook for themselves.
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