Yesterday, video evidence surfaced of shocking safety violations at a pork plant in Minnesota that supplies Hormel, the nation’s largest pork company that also operates a large plant in Fremont, Nebraska. The conditions exposed by the advocacy group Compassion Over Killing constitute extreme dangers to food and workers’ safety as well as grotesque cases of animal cruelty.
You can view an edited version of the video, however, please be advised the content is upsetting.
The conditions were chronicled in detail by Mother Jones reporter Ted Genoways, who has spent years investigating the brutal work conditions in the meatpacking and poultry industry. The video also prompted stories in the Washington Post and by the Associated Press.
In the video, workers at the plant in Austin, Minn., a facility run by Quality Pork Producers (QPP), acknowledge the violations could warrant the facility to be shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has pledged to investigate the plant.
However, the bigger picture remains that the USDA continues to allow plants to operate at unreasonably high speeds that pose a consistent danger to both our food supply and the men and women who work hard every day to prepare it.
The QPP plant operates at high speeds under a USDA pilot program known as the HAACP-Based Inspection Models Program or “HIMP.” Fremont’s Hormel plant also is part of this pilot, which not only allows unsafe line speeds, but reduces federal oversight and allows plants to police themselves.
For years, Appleseed has worked with other worker and food safety advocates to convince the USDA not to implement programs like HIMP that increase work speeds and reduce federal food inspection. We fought to strip line-speed increases from the “Poultry Rule” the USDA passed last year for poultry plants, and we understand the USDA will soon announce a similar proposed rule in pork plants to increase line speeds in that industry.
These speed increases will lead to further horrifying violations pictured in this video and put our food supply at further risk for contamination, all the while workers will continue to suffer painful musculoskeletal injuries and long-term illnesses from the punishing speeds.
In light of USDA plans to expand this model nationwide, we urge Nebraska’s congressional delegation to call for an investigation of all HIMP plants, including the one in Fremont, and for USDA to abandon the HIMP pilot model and put food and workers’ safety first in any new proposed rules.
Safe food is too important for these shortcuts to happen across the country, and the hard-working men and women who work in these plants deserve more than to be treated little better than the animals they harvest.