Food safety was never at risk at Central Valley Meat, which was shut down for a week for inhumane treatment of animals. But USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has concluded that no downer cows entered the food supply, meaning incidents of inhumane treatment did not result in any food safety violations. The Hanford, CA slaughterhouse was subjected to an undercover video sting by an animal rights group that produced disturbing footage of inhumane treatment of animals at the plant. It brought potentially devastating losses to Central Valley Meat, with customers including USDA, Costco, McDonald’s and In-N-Out Burger. But the concern about downer cattle entering the food supply is apparently unfounded. “The USDA team conducting the Central Valley Meat investigation has concluded there is no evidence to support the allegation that a downer cow was slaughtered and entered the food supply, and that no food safety violation occurred as a result,” FSIS Administrator Al Almanza told Meatingplace, the industry news service. Central Valley Meat said it is ready to resume full operations. It reopened with more video surveillance cameras installed, more training for those employees stunning animals and tighter rules for handling animals that become non-ambulatory while in transit from farm to plant. FSIS took what it said was “aggressive action” to investigate the incident involving “evidence of inhumane treatment of cattle.” The agency received a copy of the undercover video from the animal right groups that took it. With no downer cows entering the food supply, USDA did not demand the recall of any meat. By comparison, the 2008 animal cruelty investigation at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in Chino, CA brought the one of the largest recalls in history — 143 million pounds of beef — because downer cows has entered the food supply. Valley Meat Packing Co. did, at least temporarily, lose the business of Costco, In-N-Out Burgers, McDonald’s and USDA. In reopening the company said it was going to improve monitoring and deploy more third-party audits of its operations.

  • Michael Bulger

    Previous reports have indicated that the cows were seen to be writhing in their own feces and blood while covered in dirt and feces.
    Fecal contamination on hides has been linked to increased risk of E. Coli carcass contamination. (
    Clearly, feces-covered cows writhing around with open and bleeding wounds is not good for food safety. Why does this article’s headline assert that food safety was never at risk?
    It appears that food safety risks were increased as a result of Central Valley’s slaughterhouse practices.
    (And further, this GAO report points out that the U.S. lags behind other countries by not inspecting for pre-slaughter cleanliness. See Page 20 at .)

  • Marcie

    FSIS got stung by the activist saboteurs. FSIS overreacted and shuttered the plant stinging the company pretty hard which was the intended goal of the activist vandals. Thanks FSIS. Thanks for jerking into unwarranted punitive action. Now you will cover it up by claiming the violation was real serious when your inspectors couldn’t see it for themselves until you were stung. You all should be fired.

  • Phil

    I have been in industry (food service, agriculture etc.) for many years. I have been audited and the auditor. If you think it is easy to walk the line between reacting too strongly or not doing enough, you are wrong. Many times you have to make a call based on incomplete information. Waiting too long can mean either, damaging a company and it’s employees or risking the consumer. When I become perfect, I will expect that from the government. When I have issues with goverment workers/regulations, I do what I can to provide what is needed. It doesn’t take me too long, when butting my head against a brick wall, to figure that the brick doesn’t care and I have a head ache.

  • keene observer

    It all seems so very convenient for the undercover film gang to randomly drop by unannounced and get exactly the incriminating video clips they were looking for. Remarkable really.
    Of course all government inspectors needed to do was be distracted or absent so that part was easy enough. Then there needed to be one remote part of the plant that wasn’t covered by video surveillance for quality control, and there was. (Obviously this would be a critical selection criteria when looking for a plant to sting) Then there are always a few not so bright employees who can be befriended and suckered into going out of surveillance range to perform crude stunts to amuse their new friends who will film it for the benefit of other stupid friends who couldn’t be there to see or take part.
    All that remained was to edit the choreographed footage into appropriately shocking snippets published to the internet and send threats to USDA in a style reminiscent of the unabomber.
    FSIS jerks awake, leaps to its feet and flails into punitive action for alleged violations its own inspectors could not corroborate and didn’t have to. They have the badges and the guns so they mainly just need to cover their own asses. This they can accomplish by blustering and fabricating excuses, as usual. They remind us they have authority to operate like this.
    Media gleefully pounces on reports of the sting, grateful for juicy sensational smear. Nobody bothers to go out in the yards at the plant and learn just what the hell was really going on out there. Or why.
    How was the filmed activity part of business as usual at that plant? If it was. Why would such activity be in the interests of anyone at the plant? It certainly contributes nothing to productivity or the bottom line. Are select employees also joyriding in company vehicles and drinking on the job? It wouldn’t be difficult to set up a sting to make us think so. But that wouldn’t damage an industry and generate donations to activist cults like COK, MFA, HSUS.