Animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing recently released an undercover video shot at the plant of Quality Pork Processors (QPP)—a supplier of Hormel Foods, in Austin, Minnesota—that showed horrific mistreatment of hogs being slaughtered and processed for consumption.
Some details in the video include hogs beaten with paddles and conscious animals having their throats slit. In accordance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, hogs are supposed to be rendered fully unconscious before being slaughtered, something that is clearly not the case in this video.
Other jarring elements of the video pertain to food cleanliness – hogs covered with pus-filled abscesses or even what appear to be feces according to numerous sources are shown being led to slaughter and processing for later consumption.
QPP is one of the most productive pork facilities in the country, processing between 19,000 and 22,000 hogs per day. It is also one of five pork processing plants in the country running a USDA pilot program known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP). HIMP's purpose was to test reducing the number of government meat inspectors on the line (three instead of seven), a choice that reduced government spending and allowed individual processors to assume more direct responsibility for their work. This is very similar to a poultry program, launched in 2014, with the same goals.
This pilot program resulted in USDA quality checks being reduced to visual inspections due to lack of time and manpower, even though USDA inspectors are usually required to do a far more thorough and hands-on inspection of each hog. This lack of inspection is in large part due to the increased speed of processing at these plants; plants on the program process an additional 120 hogs per hour on average, according to the USDA.
Although HIMP was originally intended to improve food safety, it appears from this video that this goal may not have been achieved. According to reporting by the Washington Post,3 of the 10 least compliant plants on record between 2008 and 2011 were HIMP plants.
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USDA spokesperson Adam Tarr told the Washington Post, "The actions depicted in the video under review are appalling and completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video's authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action.”
The footage was taken during an ongoing USDA internal review of the HIMP program, after which the USDA is meant to evaluate whether HIMP should become the new industry standard for meat processing.
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Processed pork image via Shutterstock