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USDA Allows Slaughterhouse Shut Down for Abuse to Resume Operations

One week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrew inspectors from a California slaughterhouse over alleged animal abuse and inhumane slaughter, the agency gave the plant the green light to resume operations on Monday after reviewing the company’s corrective plan.

The Food Safety and Inspection service said Central Valley Meat Co. submitted an “extensive corrective action plan,” including increased humane handling training, to ensure that only animals that can stand and walk are processed.

Undercover video released last week by animal rights group Compassion Over Killing showed employees mistreating cows, including some “downers,” which are not legally allowed into the food supply because they are at higher risk for Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The agency said it is continuing to investigate whether the slaughterhouse violated food safety law, but there is so far no evidence that Central Valley Meat slaughtered any non-ambulatory animals for human consumption.

Company remains suspended from supplying federal nutrition programs

Central Valley Meat has come under intense scrutiny, especially after it was revealed that the company is a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition programs. While FSIS has not cited the company for food safety-related violations, the company violated its contractual obligation to meet the government’s humane handling standards and remains barred from supplying meat to federal nutrition programs.

The company is also ineligible to bid on future contracts until the Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees federal nutrition purchases, reviews and approves corrective and preventative measures that give USDA some level of assurance that the violations will not happen again.

As recently as 2009, Central Valley Meat was one of the top three suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. Fiscal year 2011 records posted on USDA’s website show that, during that time, USDA purchased 21.2 million pounds of various beef products, including ground beef and boneless beef, from Central Valley Meat. Five separate purchases, ranging from 40,000 pounds to 6.9 million pounds, were made for a total of $49.7 million.

According to an overview of purchases, USDA bought around 135 million pounds of beef products during the fiscal year. Purchases from Central Valley Meat accounted for roughly 16 percent of beef purchases by volume during that time.

In-N-Out, which reportedly used Central Valley Meat to supply 20 to 30 percent of the chain’s beef, immediately severed ties with the company after news of the undercover video surfaced. Costco, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Burger King also dropped the firm as a supplier.

Corrective measures

According to FSIS, Central Valley Meat Co committed to the following:

– Allow only properly trained employees to help an animal that is capable of rising by providing the animal a steady hand support. Under no circumstances such support will be through attempting to pull, drag, or lift an animal.

– Allow only properly trained employees to use electric or vibrating prods sparingly and only on muscled and well fleshed areas and never on the face or sensitive parts.

– Ensure prompt and effective stunning of an animal showing signs of regaining consciousness; alternate loaded stunners ready for immediate use will be made available in holders that allow the operator to quickly restun the animal.

– Retrain employees on humane handling of animals on a quarterly basis, increase frequency of established monitoring of company [humane handling] related practices including camera monitoring, and establish an additional oversight through a Company Animal Welfare Committee.

– Non-ambulatory cattle may not be received at the establishment. If cattle become non-ambulatory during transportation, they will be humanely stunned on the trailer.

© Food Safety News
  • RiverDivine

    This is disgusting.
    Central Valley Meat should be fined and shut down for good, the abusers imprisoned (and/or deported), and T.Vilasack booted out by Obama for someone who is competent and ethical- and can actually put frequent and unannounced inspections in place to ensure that all animals in this country are treated humanely.
    Its bad enough that the barbaric industry of factory farming is even legal in this country, in this time.

  • Ted

    USDA needs a refresher course in best practices. Here’s Temple Grandin on the topic:
    http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Dr-Temple-Grandin-explains-beef-slaughter-process-in-video-tour-167549335.html
    USDA also needs adult supervision to do the right thing. Thank goodness 3 congressmen stepped up to force USDA to reopen this plant.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/08/ca-lawmakers-ask-usda-to-reopen-slaughterhouse-shutdown-for-inhumane-treatment/#.UDzs_iLDA3o
    United States Department of Agriculture needs a name change to something more appropriate….Department of Cringing Anti-agriculture Toadies, maybe? We need to fire most of them with a new farm bill.

  • Minkpuppy

    Ted,
    Where in this article does it say those 3 idiot congressmen had anything to do with the reopening of the plant? It doesn’t, because they didn’t.
    (No offense, BTW-I think all of our congressmen are idiots and am praying desperately for the American public to see the light and abolish the 2 party system as it only benefits the politicians. I can dream can’t I?)
    The timeframe between suspension and resumption of processing here is pretty typical. Sometimes it’s less and sometimes its longer. Depends on how bad the violations are and how much work on the physical plant has to done to get back into compliance. Some are back in business in less than 24 hours and some are out of it for weeks (especially if they don’t want to make corrections).
    This is how it works with no exceptions: The plant was asked to provide corrective actions by a certain date and they did. They were allowed to reopen based on that, not some buttinsky congressmen and some readers that failed to see that the company was violating the Humane Slaughter Act. The USDA will shut them down again if they fail to implement the corrective actions. Congressmen be damned. They have to follow the letter of the law regardless of what some dingbat politician wants or thinks.
    USDA is sanctioned to do exactly as they did through that act which Congress passed BTW. The USDA’s decison was not entirely based on the video-investigators witnessed the violations live and in person as well which confirmed what was seen on the tape. That part in the original article is conveniently skipped over in all subsequent articles.
    RiverDivine: Slaughter isn’t pretty and often what looks like abuse isn’t. Some of what was depicted in the video was not abuse. Some was. The things that were abuse can be stopped and fixed and the company has a right to do that and remain in business. Often the disconnect between the front office and the yards is so huge that management doesn’t even know or care what’s going on. Well now they know so there’s no more excuses.
    The USDA has to allow the plant a chance to correct their practices. It’s called due process. Everyone has a right to it, even the worst psychopathic criminals out there, whether we like it or not.

  • Dr T

    Time to phase out USDA. It has languished into obsolescence and has become a haven for antifarm political saboteurs. Cut their funding before they become really dangerous.

  • Max

    Au Contraire M. Spin Doctor T — It’s plain to see that USDA has been taken over by the big Agribusiness corporations — lock, stock and barrel….
    It’s time to protect the public.

  • RiverDivine

    MinkPuppy,
    I actually believe that the entire industry of factory farming is inherently abusive, barbaric, and insane; the slaughter process is just the tail end of more of the same.
    And, I believe that those who participate in it in any way- either directly, or by Congress pumping the industry full of money via taxpayers, or by individuals funding it with their grocery purchases- all help to perpetuate a world which is increasingly more abusive, barbaric, and insane.
    Anyone who reads about the life of a pig, a chicken, or a cow in one of these places can easily understand the horrors. (Can access this information easily at any animal welfare site…Farm Sanctuary or In Defense of Animals or Humane Society or PETA, etc.)
    The factory farming industry brands humanity itself with a very dark stain.
    Animals are conscious beings who feel and perceive and who enjoy relationships with others of their species- and who suffer profoundly.
    Humans will never evolve as a species until we stop torturing other living, innocent creatures for our convenience and greed.
    (Just a few thoughts, in general…)

  • Mitch

    USDV
    United States Department of Veganism
    Donate what you can. Give ’till it hurts then cough up a little more. We will take it all anyway. To bash real farmers and promote food snobbery. And wreck your food supply for no extra charge. Because we can. We are the new USDA. This probably hurts us more than it hurts you…well, maybe not. It is for your own good. We are the government and we are here to help you. So be compliant — give it up. Don’t make us take it from you. Food snobs have needs that must be met. We are here to see to it.

  • Ike

    Yeah, there’s probably a lot to what divineravine gushes on and on about. You know, real urban farmers and their elitist clientele all respectfully supping on only the finest boutique victuals at some 5th Avenue venue.
    Such heartfelt anguish. Those danged newfangled “factory farms” (whatever those are) have all but done away with the imaginary uber-compassionate fairy tale subsistence petting-zoo farms of our innocent youth.
    http://terhune.net/jokes/3legpig.txt.html
    Oh, but for the good old days that never were!

  • Minkpuppy

    River: You are entitled to your opinion. I feel differently.
    I’m a farm kid and I know first hand that these horrors you take as fact are not true in every case. Many farmers are angry at this characterization and rightfully so. We do not mistreat our animals in anyway. They have everything they need including medical care if necessary. Not all meat eaters are cold-hearted and cruel. We suffer when our animals suffer and we shun those who abuse animals. We don’t like watching animals die or suffer any more than you do but we can damn well make sure they are treated with respect and dignity.
    All life is connected and sometimes that means death in order for others to survive. Our ancestors used to honor the sacrifice of the animal’s life to provide the people with food. Our increasingly modernized and mechanized society has lost sight of the spiritual aspect of food. We are still very emotional about our food but we no longer understand why. I see this underlying current in the locavore movement but haven’t seen anyone really peg it as a reconnecting to our food in a spiritual sense. And I could be talking out of my butt–it’s just how I see things, right or wrong.
    So that’s where I come from with a little of my spiritual side thrown in. Different backgrounds, different views. All is good as long as we respect each other and not condemn the other for not thinking the same way.

  • Riverdivine

    Mink,
    I appreciate your respectful and ‘adult’ exchange of ideas (unlike a few others here).
    To be clear, while I haven’t eaten meat in about 25 yrs (though I grew up eating meat, like most everyone else..)and I chose to stop eating it, because of philosophical reasons- I certainly don’t care what other people choose to eat.
    My disagreement is about the way that our country has turned basic family farming practices and common respect for other living animals (cows living on grass pastureland, with space to move, etc) into an industrial mindset, viewing animals as inanimate objects/commodities, much like manufacturing textiles or plastics. This lack of humanity is reflected in the abhorrent practices of profit-based AgriBiz.
    The more we disconnect from our humanity, from our heart, regarding how we treat others- whether humans or animals- the more inhumane we ourselves become.
    For those farmers who treat their animals respectfully and with care, so that their life before slaughter is a decent one-then that is how it should be! I salute farmers like you, and have respect for you.
    For those who believe enforcing basic animal welfare standards in a country that often has no self-policing abilities, or internal ethical sense of right or wrong- as a form of ‘government interference’ or being a ‘snob’, then I would assume that they have missed the point entirely. I suppose that those same people would like no police force or fire department or other assistance when crimes are committed against THEM.