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Beef Packers Cited for Inhumane Handling in 2008

Fresno-based Beef Packers Inc., the ground beef processor now in the process of recalling almost 826,000 pounds over drug-resistant Salmonella Newport fears, received citations for improper animal handling last year, the Associated Press wire service claims.

It said U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors found that workers were using electric prods to force cattle into slaughter. According to the USDA report, three cows were stunned and left unconscious “so that they could be pulled through the restrainer to be shackled, hung and bled.”

“The electric prod should never be the primary tool used to move animals,” said Joan Collins, a program manager in Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) Office of Field Operations in a USDA podcast, “they should be used rarely, if at all.”

As the wire service points out, “dragging unconscious cattle could increase the risk for E. coli and Salmonella contamination because cow hides can pick up bacteria from feces that sometimes collect in or around the chute.”

Cargill Meat Solutions, the parent company of Beef Packers, appealed the FSIS citations saying that the presence of too many inspectors caused the animals to balk. According to the wire service, FSIS “later rescinded the citation and instead sent Beef Packers a letter of concern.”

The cause of the drug-resistant Salmonella Newport outbreak tied to Beef Packers remains unknown, neither the USDA nor Cargill have provided the public with any details. To date 29 people have been sickened in California, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS

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