Meat Plant Employees To Have New Healthcare Option

Amy Mayer / IPR File

By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News

Workers in meatpacking facilities will have a new option for healthcare if a pilot program is successful.

Des Moines-based nonprofit Proteus Inc. already provides resources and healthcare for farmworkers in Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana.

CEO Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel said the organization is looking to extend its reach to meatpacking workers. Hoffman-Zinnel said one facility will serve as the pilot for the new program, although the exact facility has not been made public yet. The project was announced in response to COVID-19.

“Meat processing workers especially have become disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Hoffman-Zinnel said. “We saw a need. And we definitely have a model that has worked for over two decades with farmworkers that we want to try with meat processing facility workers.”

The organization will work with the University of Iowa to research the effectiveness of the model as it is translated to a different workforce.


Hoffman-Zinnel said meatpacking workers fit under the organization’s “agricultural umbrella.”

“We’re still focusing on the mission of providing services to agricultural workers, but historically have never really done a lot of work within meat processing facility. So this would be a new market for us,” Hoffman-Zinnel said.

He said Proteus Inc. would start with smaller facilities first. Hoffman-Zinnel described many families they help as “dual families,” who have relatives in both the farmworking industry and meatpacking.

“Hopefully we’ll find that it’s beneficial and something that we can replicate with other meat processing facilities in the future,” he said.

The program would provide basic primary care and access to other health resources and referrals. For the most part, healthcare with Proteus Inc. relies on nurse practitioners, but a medical doctor and physician assistant are also accessible.


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