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January 2017, Volume 23, Number 1

Meat and Migrants

The Wall Street Journal on November 2, 2016 profiled smaller cities in the Midwest that have been changed by immigration since 2000. Donald Trump's anti-immigrant message played well in Arcadia, Wisconsin, where a third of residents were Hispanic in 2015.

The diversity index, a measure that asks if any two people in a county have the same race or ethnicity, found that half of the 244 counties in which the index doubled between 2000 and 2015 were in the Midwest, usually places with meatpacking and farm-related jobs that drew newcomers. Over the long run, the share of registered Democrats is expected to increase as Latinos naturalize and their US-born children turn voting age, but in the shorter term, the share of Republicans rises as long-time residents react negatively to the immigrant influx.

Arcadia had 2,400 residents in 2000. The local dairy industry, Ashley Furniture, and chicken processor GNP began to recruit Latino workers in the 1990s. The share of Latinos rose from three to 35 percent between 2000 and 2015, and the population rose to 3,000. The elementary school now has three-fourths Hispanic pupils, and two-thirds of K-12 students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

BLS released its annual injury and illness data in October 2016, and reported that there were three injuries per 100 full-time equivalent workers in private industry in 2015. The rate for agriculture was higher, 5.7, and highest for aquaculture, 13.6. The dairy injury rate was 6.6, while the rate in fruit and tree nut farming was 6.3. The injury rate in food manufacturing was 4.7, and 5.4 in animal slaughtering and processing, with non-poultry having a higher rate, 7.2, than poultry, 4.3.

The Georgia Dock is used by many grocery stores to price a three-pound chicken, and the Urner Barry index is used by restaurants to gauge prices. In November 2016, the Georgia Dock price was about $1.10 a pound while the Urner Barry price was $0.70, raising questions about why the price of chicken in grocery stores has not fallen with the Urner Barry price. A suit filed in October 2016 alleged that JBS's Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson Foods manipulated the Georgia Dock price to keep chicken prices at grocery stores $0.40 a pound higher than the Urner Barry price for restaurants. Americans eat an average 90 pounds of chicken a year.

A 1999 federal law requires meatpackers to disclose beef and pork prices to USDA, but poultry processors do not have to report their prices.