USDA Eyes Whether Tainted Beef Entered Food Supply
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Federal regulators who shut down a Central California slaughterhouse after receiving an animal welfare video were investigating Tuesday whether beef from sick cows reached the human food supply.
The video appears to show workers bungling the slaughter of cows 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 Monday at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford after receiving the video 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. Mark Taylor, chief operating officer, said on Tuesday that the company acted immediately upon becoming aware it.
"As soon as we became aware of the allegations regarding Central Valley Meat Company and their handling of cattle, we immediately severed our supplier relationship with them. In-N-Out Burger would never condone the inhumane treatment of animals and all of our suppliers must agree to abide by our strict standards for the humane treatment of cattle," Taylor said to The Associated Press in a written statement.
In-N-Out’s agreement with suppliers prohibits companies from shipping beef from sick animals. The agreement also includes standards on humane treatment of animals.
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.
"That’s the main issue right now," said DeJong of the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.
Central Valley Meat Co., owned by Brian and Lawrence Coelho, declined to comment on the video, saying company officials had not seen it.
"We were extremely disturbed to be informed by the USDA that ... our plant could not operate based upon a videotape that was provided to the department by a third-party group that alleged inhumane treatment of animals on our property," said a company statement.