USDA Proposal to Increase Hog Processing Line Speeds Endangers Workers and Consumers

Following is a statement from Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed changes to the nation’s swine slaughter inspection system needlessly jeopardize consumers’ safety and the safety and well-being of the tens of thousands of workers who already endure exceedingly harsh working conditions to provide cheap meat to American consumers.

“By removing all limits on line speeds, this proposal is yet another example of the Trump administration rigging the rules against workers and being perfectly willing to sacrifice workers’ health to benefit corporate interests.

“The proposal would remove most government food inspectors from swine slaughter facilities and thus allow plants to aggressively increase their already breakneck line speeds to process more hogs per hour. This rule was proposed despite a recent report by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General that evaluated a similar pilot initiative (known as HIMP) and found that in the 15 years since the program’s inception, the agency did not properly assess whether the new inspection process had measurably improved food safety at each swine HIMP plant.

“Workers in the meatpacking industry already face some of the highest worker injury rates in the nation—two times the average for all other industries. And they face serious workplace illnesses at rates 20 times as high. Speeding up the number of hogs processed each hour in a plant will result in an already dangerous industry becoming even more dangerous, further jeopardizing the safety of all its workers. The only beneficiaries to this rule are the huge meatpacking companies like JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride—companies that already make millions in profits yet report among the highest numbers of severe worker injuries.”

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Deborah Berkowitz

Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project

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