KANSAS CITY, MO. — 2020 has thrown everyone for a loop. What started out as a reasonably typical year, has turned into a year like no other. Not a day goes by where COVID-19 doesn’t make the headlines. As virus cases continue to rise around the country, lawmakers, business owners, school superintendents and medical professionals continue to make the best decisions they can about how to keep life going while keeping people as healthy as possible. But things just aren’t quite the same.

Kimberlie ClymaPeople are either holed up in their newly created “home offices” spending countless hours on conference calls and Zoom sessions or they’re going to work donning masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment) in order to safely perform work that can’t be done virtually.

Social distancing has become a way of life – with family and friends, with work colleagues and with strangers on the street. Face-to-face business meetings are few and far between, and at those that do occur, handshakes have been replaced with courteous nods and elbow bumps.

As much as everyone wants life to return to normal, both socially and in our work lives, we’re not quite there yet – just sit tight, hurry up and wait.

Last January, before the pandemic really started to spread, meat and poultry processing professionals were able to make their annual pilgrimmage to Atlanta for the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). More than 32,000 people attend each year, from more than 130 countries. It’s the best place to see new technology designed for the meat and poultry processing industries, to network with colleagues and to learn about what’s going on in our industry. MEAT+POULTRY always attends and benefits so much from face-to-face time with suppliers, processors and industry experts. We pride ourselves on never missing a show.

Unfortunately, in 2021, we’ll all be missing IPPE.

Show organizers recently made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person portion of the annual trade show. After months of considering the options, discussing health concerns and surveying participants to gauge interest in attendance, members of the sponsoring organizations – the American Feed Industry Association, the North American Meat Institute and the US Poultry & Egg Association – decided to turn the show into an online-only event.

“We concluded that due to the challenges of the pandemic and safety concerns, we could not offer the type of experience the industries have come to expect by bringing key decision-makers from across the globe to Atlanta,” organizers explained.

Instead, the show will offer virtual offerings during IPPE week – Jan. 26-28, 2021 – which will include educational programs for attendees and exhibitors as well as “exhibitor marketplace engagement.”

I’m sure many in the industry are already disappointed about not starting out their year doing business in Atlanta, but I know the show organizers did not come to this conclusion easily. Putting safety first and choosing to switch the event to online only is not only responsible of the IPPE show organizers, but respectful. They made the decision with health and safety as a top priority instead of simply making money. When the show organizers opted to cancel the in-person event they took the decision away from the attendees and their companies. The visitors to the show no longer have to weigh the choice of doing business versus keeping employees healthy and safe. This was a responsible sacrifice by the IPPE organizing team and they should be acknowledged and rewarded. So, let’s do what we can to support the virtual event they will be holding in January. And then, mark your calendars for Jan 25-27, 2022, to return to Atlanta to support one of the industry’s best shows, once again.