The meat-packing plants were well-designed given their constraints, but this coronavirus was unanticipated, and creating production facilities with more protections against this will take a lot of time and money. These new facilities would also use much more energy (roughly proportional to the increase in area required), so you have to ask whether those costs would be worth incurring to help with the next (hypothetical) outbreak. It's too late to build new facilities for this one.
It's good to fight for better working conditions for all, but not without remembering the lowest-end of the wage ladder.
(Which isn't to be interpreted as an argument against minimum wage increases, but rather that there needs to be an on-ramp for those who didn't grow up with privilege)
> Greg Page, former CEO of Cargill, the largest privately-held company in America, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the global food supply and the challenges of running a company with employees and activity all over the world. Page talks about the role of prices in global food markets in signaling information and prompting changes in response to those signals. Other topics include government's role in agriculture, the locavore movement and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Cargill is just another 'private company' in the same way that Carnegie Steel was just another private company, or Standard Oil was just another publicly traded company. It's actually a family business in the truest sense of the word. The family itself owns nearly the entire financial stake in the business, and controls the rest in all but name.
With 115+ billion in annual revenue, they are one of the largest companies in the world, public or private. I believe if you exclude state owned enterprises, they would be top 50 worldwide somewhere around Microsoft. And as far as companies go, at least on the corporate side, they seem to treat their employees well from both a benefits and compensation standpoint.
They operate in multiple markets with near impunity where they are, essentially, the only buyer or seller of goods at scale. And, depending on who you believe and how you read into things, are responsible for anything ranging from really terrible industrial accidents, all the way up to exploitation and nation state style cover-ups and atrocities.
Why is this? And this is where I get to the 'trust me if you dare, just my opinion' part of the post, but... few short reasons.
One -- They're privately held, and subject to much less scrutiny because of it.
Two -- They're a generational wealth family business. Combine that with the lack of 'publicly traded' above and those who are actually delegated the work have no incentive to step out of line.
Three -- In almost every market they're in, the cost of them ceasing operations in that market is perceived as more harmful, for everyone, than whatever negative externalities they happen to create.
Happy to clarify, or hear how I'm wrong in my thinking.
There are laws already on the books allowing corporate officers to be charged individually for, e.g., wrongful deaths, gross negligence, destroyed livelihoods. All we need is for prosecutors to start using them.
Whenever I mention this, somebody pops up babbling about hysteria, as if those laws were written and passed in some sort of fit.
I wonder, should large companies be required to go public once they grow beyond a certain size? Does private ownership reduce transparency and accountability? Are privately held companies more likely to be secretive "evil corps" like Koch and Cargill?
Also, realistically and in comparison to other companies, you really have to stretch to call them public enemy one. There is really no danger of Cargill impacting your life like one of the big tech companies. There are other strong players in everyone of their markets.
Cargill is the second largest producer of beef in the US and among their numerous issues are deaths due to E Coli. Not to mention their rampant chemical dumping.
If you are a US citizen you are more likely to be killed by Cargill than by most of the big tech companies (I said "most" instead of "all" because I think the jury is still out on Amazon).
A bit of a difference between those statements. I'm growing less and less fond of HN's tendency to push people to the thin ice.
I do believe that the average person has a higher chance of being impacted by any of the big techs causing pain, then getting sick from something at a Cargill plant. Cargill isn't a delta away from the problems other companies experience. Heck, salad companies seem to be the biggest offender. I was never worried about beef. Turkey on the other hand seemed to show up a lot in the news.
Not to mention their rampant chemical dumping.
When I think rampant chemical dumping, I think of 3M poisoning the ground in various places. There was a real case of politicians letting a company off.
On my scale, between their various meats, the pollutants they use, and the various spills (plenty listed in the article and online) I'd come down harder on Cargill than tech.
As to chemicals, do remember that the whole tech industry is built on companies that did significant dumping.https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/09/silic...
Also, highlighting a single Cargill outbreak says nothing either way about the correctness of "very rare".
> There is really no danger of Cargill impacting your life [...]. There are other strong players in everyone of their markets.
Cargill actually owns most of the players on the other markets.
Just recently, the Amazon fires benefited a Cargill branch so much, some think it was all a ploy to plant more soy. Even Nestle (another borderline unethical company, e.g. water rights) announced they will stop buying from Cargill Brazil because of that one. Yet, nobody in south America knows the name Cargill.
I think that’s a bit odd to say, given another top-level comment noted that COVID-19 outbreaks have happened to TFWs in various meatpacking plants.
Otherwise, I agree with you. They’re not very “cool” as far as a company goes, so they’re not as easy to pay attention to.
Not really, the overall impact wasn't as high as some folks like to think. All sorts of places and events had outbreaks including other food producers. For most, its background noise.
Do you live in the U.S. and ate food today? Chances are Cargill had something to do with it somewhere in the production chain. Yes, they are that big.
You can make the same argument for monsanto, but they get a lot of public flak.
No it doesn't, Bayer owns what used to be Monsanto.
They're also very low margin, and if you aren't working in farming areas, has a corporate headquarters in a place not too much tech happens in. There's almost no reason for it to ever show up here.
However, if you were awake today and ate food, you probably encountered something Cargill had something to do with.
They also purposely try to keep a relatively low profile.
One of their very first consumer facing products was Truvia, which didn't come out until 2008, for a company founded in the 19th century.
It was their main business, but I'm not sure it is anymore.