USDA considers making increased poultry line speeds permanent

The USDA is seeking to make the recent increase speed in poultry lines permanent, alarming food and worker safety advocates.
calendar icon 7 September 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

Poultry plants have been able to increase their line speeds after filing waivers with the USDA. Many companies filed these waivers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.

At the end of July, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) sued the USDA to void the waivers. In response, the USDA announced that it would stop issuing the waivers on 24 April.

Shortly after this, the agency proposed a rule that would permanently increase poultry line speed limits from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, causing outrage among safety advocates.

Speaking to Civil Eats, Tony Corbo, a lobbyist at Food & Water Watch said, “This is adding insult to injury. We raised holy hell about [the waivers, and] finally, they stopped it, but they turned around and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to propose a rule to allow all the chicken plants to be able to increase the line speeds.’ It’s just unconscionable with what this department is doing.”

Corbo and other advocates believe that poultry industry influence at the USDA is behind the proposed rule change. Recently, the USDA announced that three new members of a 20-member committee that advises the federal agency on meat and poultry inspection. Those individuals have either directly worked for or are paid advocates for industrial-scale meat production.

Read more about this story here.

Poultry plants have been able to increase their line speeds after filing waivers with the USDA. Many companies filed these waivers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.

At the end of July, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) sued the USDA to void the waivers. In response, the USDA announced that it would stop issuing the waivers on 24 April.

Shortly after this, the agency proposed a rule that would permanently increase poultry line speed limits from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, causing outrage among safety advocates.

Speaking to Civil Eats, Tony Corbo, a lobbyist at Food & Water Watch said, “This is adding insult to injury. We raised holy hell about [the waivers, and] finally, they stopped it, but they turned around and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to propose a rule to allow all the chicken plants to be able to increase the line speeds.’ It’s just unconscionable with what this department is doing.”

Corbo and other advocates believe that poultry industry influence at the USDA is behind the proposed rule change. Recently, the USDA announced that three new members of a 20-member committee that advises the federal agency on meat and poultry inspection. Those individuals have either directly worked for or are paid advocates for industrial-scale meat production.

Read more about this story here.

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