Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat: Death and injuries on ‘The Chain,’ a Harvest Public Media series about the dangerous life of working in a meatpacking plant, was recognized as an outstanding example of investigative reporting by the public radio industry.
The series was awarded first place in the Enterprise/Investigative category in its division by the group Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI). Judges commented that “...the storytelling was crisp, the examples were compelling, and the production was clean.”
Harvest Public Media’s reporters and editors spent more than a year researching the dangerous jobs that bring us cheap meat, jobs which are often filled by immigrants and refugees. Our investigation found:
- Some workers pay a high price for their job, some with their life and others with long-term injuries. “Employees aren’t cattle that go through the chutes,” said the widow of one worker. “They’re people with families.”
- The government’s fines for worker deaths and injuries are “embarrassingly low,” according to a former OSHA official. The average initial fines leveled on multi-million dollar meatpacking companies are $19,340 per case, which are negotiated down to, on average, $10,993.
- Federal regulators are creating enforcement programs meant to lower injuries and deaths at meatpacking plants. A new reporting regulation that kicked in in 2015 found roughly 145 serious accidents at the top four U.S. meat companies – injuries that had previously gone unreported to the very authorities charged with keeping workers safe.
Reporter and editors on the Harvest Public Media team from KCUR 89.3, KUNC, NET, IPR and KBIA all worked on the series.