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Animal Rights Group Undercover Video Prompts USDA Shutdown of Beef Plant

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After receiving a video shot by the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, the USDA shut down the California beef processing facility, Central Valley Meat, for inhumane treatment of animals.

Allegedly the video showed footage of employees at Central Valley Meat repeatedly shocking and shooting the animals with pneumatic guns according to the Associated Press, which was given four minutes of the footage. The video was apparently shot over a period of weeks in June of this year.

The USDA received the video on August 16 and assigned its Office of the Inspector General to investigate the claims within hours. A team of investigators were dispatched on August 17 and determined that there was "sufficient evidence" of egregious inhumane treatment. On August 19, the agency informed Central Valley Meat that it was withdrawing its inspectors and withholding marks of inspection.

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From the Organic Authority Files

The North American Meat Association (NAMA) told Food Safety News that there was no evidence that Central Valley Meat had slaughtered "downer" cows; non-ambulatory or "downer" cows are not legally allowed to be slaughtered because the inability to stand or walk can be a sign of mad cow disease. The NAMA said that food safety was not affected.

In 2009, Central Valley Meat was one of the top three suppliers of meat to the National School Lunch Program, but the Associated Press could not confirm whether they are still supplying meat to the program.

According to the Associated Press, the video contained footage of employees bungling the process of rendering the cattle unconscious before slaughter, including shocking and shooting the animals repeatedly with a pneumatic gun. Additional footage showed an employee apparently trying to suffocate a cow, and showed cattle unable to stand or walk, which prompted the concerns about food safety.

Update: In-N-Out Burger has severed ties with Central Valley Meat after learning of the alleged animal abuse. In-N-Out Burger's COO, Mark Taylor, said that suppliers must agree in writing not to distribute beef from sick cattle and to abide by humane treatment standards.

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