The novel coronavirus was devastating to workers in the meatpacking industry, where employees spend long hours in close quarters.
Thousands of cases created hot spots and even forced temporary plant shutdowns for Tyson, Smithfield and other major meat companies.
At the time, experts warned that the virus might permanently change the meat industry as company leaders weighed the need for automating more tasks.
It seems this change is already taking shape, as Reuters is reporting that meatpackers in North and South America are accelerating investments in automation.
Meatpacking has accounted for just half a percent of global industrial automation investment to date, but experts say businesses are making a change.
Those include Tyson, Smithfield and JBS SA, who say they all have automation plans in the works.
While moving to automation may increase safety and improve security for food resources, it will be costly.
But a Tyson rep told Reuters there’s “a heightened sense of urgency” to make the modifications quickly, and tests are already underway.