April 7, 2021


US meatpackers urge USDA to appeal court ruling cancelling faster slaughter speeds


The North American Meat Institute, which represents major meatpackers in the United States, have urged the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to appeal a federal court decision that cancelled the rule that permitted pork plants to increase slaughter speeds, Reuters reported.


The decision on March 31 by the US District Court in Minnesota may increase costs for swine meatpackers such as Clemens Food Group and Seaboard Foods and disrupt meat production following low supplies last year after COVID-19 related slaughterhouse shutdowns.


The United Food and Commercial Workers Union challenged the 2019 rule because they said increased slaughter speeds affected workers' safety.


North American Meat Institute had asked the USDA to appeal and ask for a stay, adding that increased line speeds are not related to higher worker injury rates.


Last year, Seaboard Foods' Guymon, Oklahoma pork plant became the first company to increase line speeds under the new rule. Workers at the plant said there is a higher injury rate at the plant due to the increased line speeds.


Seaboard Foods is the second biggest swine producer in the US after Smithfield Foods.


The cancelled rule permitted pork plants to increase slaughter line speeds without limits, provided that fecal contamination is prevented, and bacteria is minimised.

The law was introduced as part of the USDA's New Swine Inspection System, which also allowed pork plants to hire their own inspectors instead of using USDA inspectors.


Liz Croston, a spokeswoman for Tyson Foods, said they will continue with plans to implement the new system at their Madison, Nebraska, and Perry, Iowa plants. She said the company aims to modernise inspections and food safety, not line speeds.


- Reuters