An undercover video including footage from months of work at one of the United States largest pork processors has raised questions over how animals are killed, and sparked a government investigation.
“If the USDA is around, they could shut us down,” one worker is filmed as saying.
The jarring video shows pigs being dragged across the floor, beaten, and bleeding out while writhing. The law that requires pigs to be rendered unconscious before being killed appears to be ignored.
“That one was definitely alive,” one worker said.
The graphic video “USDA-Approved High Speed Slaughter Hell” was covertly filmed by an employee of the nonprofit animal rights group Compassion Over Killing.
The unnamed employee got a job at the Austin, Minnesota plant of Quality Pork Processors, a supplier of Hormel Foods, the company that makes Spam and a variety of other popular processed meats.
After releasing the footage, the group sent it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has since pledged a thorough investigation.
“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,” USDA spokesman Adam Tarr said in a statement.
Approximately 1,300 pigs are slaughtered at the plant each hour.
“That means this facility operates at faster line speeds than almost any other facility in the U.S.,” the nonprofit says on its website. “The excessive slaughter line speed forces workers to take inhumane shortcuts that lead to extreme suffering for millions of pigs. It also jeopardizes food safety for consumers.”
The footage also shows a supervisor sleeping on the job, and pigs covered in feces or abscesses still being killed and processed for human consumption with the department’s stamp of approval.
Quality Pork Producers and Hormel have not commented on the video.
“I don’t think you can look at the video along with the USDA guidelines and say that QPP is following the law,” Ted Genoways, the author of “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” told the Washington Post.
“This plant is the symbol of everything that is wrong with the meat industry,” added Genoways, who saw the video but is not associated with the nonprofit.
Even more concerning, the plant where the footage was recorded is part of a pilot program known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) that allows processors more responsibility over the inspection process. The government told its inspectors to focus more on food safety, while the private workers are supposed to focus on safely handling the animals and products.
The program features three government inspects on the production line, and a fourth free to move around, compared to the usual seven. It’s resulted in saved government money faster processing times, but apparently not everything has worked out well.
Multiple groups have raised concerns about the pilot program since it started in the late ’90s, including a former USDA inspector, a USDA inspector general, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.