The USDA ordered the recall of 143 million lbs of beef Feb 17th from a California slaughterhouse, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. The recall affects all of the company's past 2 years' production and is the biggest in US history.
Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co is the second largest supplier of beef to school lunch programs and also provides meat to various federal programs. Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef when to school programs but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten. So far there have been no reported illnesses resulting from the meat.
The recall comes on the heels of an undercover investigation, and video, by the Humane Society of the United States.
The video is extremely disturbing and sad ... but I think you should watch it to see what happens in slaughterhouses and to understand the recall.
The video shows workers at the plant using several abusive techniques to make "downer" animals stand up and pass a pre-slaughter inspection. California law mandates that cattle unable to stand or walk be humanely euthanized or removed from the premises, and the US Department of Agriculture prohibits the processing of meat from downer cattle. These workers were trying to get the sick and injured cows to stand up and walk into the slaughterhouse to squeeze as much money out of their cows. They resort to ramming cattle with forklift blades, using a heavy hose on the animal's face, kicking and shocking cows, pocking them in the eyes and otherwise abusing these animals that are too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse.
Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease since they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often very weak.The law prohibits maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding a living animal. Two former employees have been charged. Five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager. Three misdemeanor counts — illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal — were filed against an employee who worked under that manager. Both were fired.
Operations at the company have been temporarily suspended.
USDA is facing questions as to why inspectors failed to notice the problem even though 5 worked at the California plant. And, of course, you have to wonder that had the Humane Society not released these videos, would what seems to be the common practice of including sick cattle into the food supply have ever been questioned? Would the shockingly cruel treatment of these animals ever have been exposed? Could the USDA floor inspectors, who have undoubtedly witnessed this kind of treatment of cattle before, be counted on to do the right thing to protect us or would they simply turn their heads as they have done in this case?
On a side note, being a non-meat eater, although the footage was very hard to look at,
sending healthy cows to slaughter was as difficult to watch.