In the midst of unprecedented inflation, skyrocketing commodity prices and projected food shortages and supply chain issues arising as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an interesting story has started to surface: food processing plants globally appear to be catching fire and burning down at a notable rate.
First, lets examine what seems odd. For weeks, social media users and bloggers have been throwing around the story that dozens of food processing facilities have mysteriously burned down over the last few months.
It’s a phenomenon that has even caught the attention of top rated cable TV news host Tucker Carlson, who spoke about it this week.
“This is the second time in a week something like this happened,” Carlson said about breaking news after a plane crashed into a food facility in Georgia.
“So industrial accidents happen, of course, but this is a lot of industrial accidents at food processing plants. At the same time the president is warning us of food shortages. They’re getting hit by planes and catching on fire. What is going on here?” Carlson asked.
Carlson’s guest, Jason Rantz opined: “It could lead to some serious food shortages. That’s why people are wondering, well, number one, what’s going on? And you’ve got people speculating that this might be an intentional way to disrupt the food supply. Police are saying that these fires are due to faulty issues with equipment, so they’re not saying this was intentional."
Fire at pig farm in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland (via The Western Standard)
The Western Standard has also been following the story closely and found dozens upon dozens of incidents globally.
“Beyond North American food processing plants, there have been dozens more food processing facilities destroyed in fires and explosions in the last two years,” the outlet wrote days ago.
“Fires in the food industry are not uncommon,” but the incidents appear to be on the rise, the report said.
The outlet recapped some of the more recent incidents, which it compiled in this list (this is only a partial list, TWS’s full list is here):
On Monday, 43,000 chickens died in a massive fire that destroyed four chicken houses on a farm in the Dutch town of Heusden, according to World Today News.
In March, a fire at a poultry farm in India killed 3,500 chickens. According to PiPa News, the fire destroyed the entire farm.
Another poultry farm in India was also hit by fire in March killing 8,500 chicks. Times of India reported the fire may have been caused by a short circuit.
In January, a fire at a poultry farm in Kerala, India killed more than 2,500 chickens, according to The Print.
In December 2021, 8,000 chickens were killed in a poultry farm blaze in Sri Lanka. News First reported the fire was likely sparked by an “electrical leak.”
A massive blaze at a Northern Ireland farm killed hundreds of pigs in November 2021, as reported by News Letter. No one was injured.
In October 2021, a large fire at a Fermanagh poultry farm in Northern Ireland killed 16,000 birds. It took firefighters more than seven hours to get control of the fire, as reported by That’s Farming.
A large fire broke out in September 2021 at a Chilean food processing plant. Although no injuries were reported, several crews were needed to battle the blaze, as reported by La Tercera.
In July 2021, a deadly fire at a Bangladesh food processing factory kills at least 52 people, as reported by Aljazeera.
Another fire at a poultry house in East Yorkshire, England in July 2021 killed 50,000 chickens. The fire was said to be caused by accidental ignition, as reported by the Daily Mail.
In April 2021, over 55,000 pigs were killed after a fire broke out at a German pig farm. USA Today reported the cause of the blaze was unclear.
Additionally, the FBI has also warned about cyberattacks against food processing plants (yet another reason I like cybersecurity stocks) in the days following coverage of the fires.
"Ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural cooperatives during critical planting and harvest seasons, disrupting operations, causing financial loss, and negatively impacting the food supply chain," the notice read, adding 2021 and early 2022 ransomware attacks on farming co-ops could affect the current planting season "by disrupting the supply of seeds and fertilizer."
The agency warned, "A significant disruption of grain production could impact the entire food chain, since grain is not only consumed by humans but also used for animal feed ... In addition, a significant disruption of grain and corn production could impact commodities trading and stocks. "
Zero Hedge astutely noted that this is “all happening as the Ukraine-Russian conflict has disrupted the global food supply chain. Food prices are at record highs, and the Rockefeller Foundation just released their timeframe of when a ‘massive, immediate food crisis’ may begin -- they say, ‘in the next six months.’”
Now, let’s examine the skeptical side. There are tens of thousands of such facilities globally, and so “dozens” of fires aren’t exactly statistically significant. Logically writes:
Upon investigation, Logically found many articles about fires and accidents at food processing units in 2019. According to a 2019 report by USDA, the United States has more than 36,000 food and beverage processing units in operation. Minor damages through fires to a small handful of food processing factories would not cause a food shortage across the country.
And fact checkers seem to be in unison that there were little to no evidence of foul play in any of the incidents. The crew at PolitiFact said:
We looked at each of the 18 fires mentioned in the Facebook post and found no evidence that any of them were intentionally set.
Twelve were either ruled accidental, or no foul play was suspected. One was at a vacant building that once housed a meat plant. In five others, the fires are either still under investigation or investigators have not publicly announced any cause found — intentional or otherwise.
Some of the plants were completely destroyed or heavily damaged, while others suffered minor damage with little impact on food production. Though the post said the 18 fires happened in the past six months, only 12 of those happened in that time frame.
Snopes also wrote:
The claim of a new “trend” of fires at food processing facilities does not hold up upon scrutiny. Almost all of the fires on meme lists involved explainable causes, and we found no examples of suspected arson.