I am self-employed. I ran a company called Pfeiveh Brokerage and I buy and sell. I trade meat internationally. And I also do that with animal glands from meat packers that I sell to the pharmaceutical companies for their further manufacture of pharmaceutical products.
When the COVID virus hit, it particularly hit hard in the meatpacking industry. As if anybody is gonna need one of these meat packing plans. The people who are on the processing line, literally, stand shoulder the shoulder. And any one person gets sick, you can literally have hundreds get sick in a very short period of time. And so, many of the meat packers had to close temporarily. Some of them cut far, far back. They had to redo their plants, put some more room in between each employee and some plastic guarding in between them and do some alterations. Because of that, they have not been able to rehire everybody. Some people have not been able to go back to work. They tell me, particularly women, because the children had to come home. There was no school and there was no day care. Somebody had to take care of the kids. So one or two of the parents had to stay home.
Some people were literally getting more money being at home, not working, through government benefits unemployment comp than going into work. Other people were just afraid. They were just afraid to go back into work.
So what the meat packers had to do is allocate their labor to get the greatest value they can out of their product. And so if they're short on labor, I can give you an example. A prime rib from a meat packer might be worth $220 whereas a bovine ovary gland, which is used by some pharmaceutical companies, I believe, to make estrogen for women, they take the enzyme out of the ovary, is worth maybe 30 cents a piece. And if you're short on labor, you're going to go and you're going to save that prime rib. So, that hasn't been reported by the press. And I foresee a real shortage that's going to happen, probably, in about a year from now, in insulin as insulin is derived from pork pancreas.
The pork packers were really disproportionately disaffected. And there is a real...they just can't continue to pull the pancreas. They don't have the labor for it, so generally the pharmaceutical companies or the pre-preparatory companies for the pharmaceutical companies will have about a year's inventory on hand. But it's already been four-five months, and the plants are getting back up to speed, but even getting back into their normal routine, their numbers are down. Their quantities that they're producing are down. For a while, they were producing nothing. And there are quite a number of medications out there that are produced from these plants. So, I have a feeling within a year, there's gonna be some real shortages on some of these items. Just to give you an idea of what's happening price-wise, before COVID had hit, pork pancreas were worth about $1.20 per pound, and my understanding is now that the pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay $4.50 per pound and they still can't get it.
And the same is true for a number of glands...thyroid glands, pineal glands, all of them. So, I have a feeling that's going to happen. And sadly, I'll put the blame on politicians. They don't understand why, and they're gonna come out to the press and say, "These horrible vicious pharmaceutical companies are raising prices and hurting people," whereas in fact, it's not their fault. They aren't gonna be able to get the raw material they need to produce what's necessary. So that's something that's not being reported.
I'm also assuming similar things like that are going to happen in industries that I'm not involved in. But just knowing one industry, I think I can assume that's probably happening in other industries too.
— Phil Sher
Stories of Wisdom from Bodies in Separation (SWaBS): Archiving the Coronavirus Pandemic Through the Lens of Humanities has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
To see the full interviews
and media for this project
To contribute your own materials to the Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 Community Archive Project, pleaseVisit Library