SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

August 23, 2012

Slaughterhouse shut over safety

Meat’s safety at issue after undercover video

USDA shuts down slaughterhouse in California


FRESNO, Calif. — Federal regulators who shut down a central California slaughterhouse after receiving an animal-welfare video were investigating yesterday whether beef from sick cows reached the human food supply.

  • The video appears to show workers bungling the slaughter of cows that are struggling to walk and even stand. Under federal regulations, sick animals cannot be slaughtered for human consumption.

The investigation will determine whether sick cows were slaughtered and whether meat products from the company should be recalled, said Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.

The agency suspended operations at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford on Monday after receiving the video on Friday from the animal-welfare group Compassion Over Killing. The footage shows animals bleeding and thrashing after being repeatedly shot in the head with a pneumatic gun in unsuccessful efforts to render them unconscious for slaughter.

Federal regulations say that to avoid unnecessary suffering during slaughter, animals must be rendered unconscious by a single shot to the head from a pneumatic gun that fires a bolt through the skull to pierce the brain.

  • In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food chain, severed its ties with the company after learning about the situation.

The USDA said investigators are trying to determine whether the cows in the video were just lame or sick, which would render them unfit for human consumption.

Central Valley Meat Co., owned by Brian and Lawrence Coelho, declined to comment on the video, saying that company officials had not seen it. Yesterday, the company hired a public-relations firm, which issued a statement saying that the company is cooperating with investigators.

The video taken by an undercover investigator for Compassion Over Killing also shows cattle lying in pens unable to move, and at least one unable to stand to leave a stock transportation trailer.

Some clips show cattle that have swollen udders and are unable to keep their legs under them. Other footage shows a downed cow trembling and unable to stand even as workers try to pull her up by the tail.

Within hours of seeing the video, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General sent investigators, who found evidence of “egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock.” Officials shut down the plant while the investigation unfolds.

The USDA had at least two inspectors stationed at the site, and federal officials, when asked whether there was evidence that the inspectors had neglected their duties, said the investigation is ongoing.

Online USDA records show that the company has contracted to sell ground beef to USDA food programs.

(Heaven forbid!  Jan)


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