I Did Not Get the Job
By Tony Corbo
Late Friday afternoon, I heard a knock on my office door. As I opened the door, a courier handed me a lengthy letter from Mike Brown, the President of the National Chicken Council, denying my request to be a company chicken sorter in a plant operating under the privatized inspection model that USDA has been running since 1998.
Mr. Brown explained that not anyone can walk off the street to be a company chicken sorter. He claimed that company employees receive extensive training before they can be assigned to the slaughter line. The letter stated:
“Company sorters must learn not only the technical requirements of the job, but must also be trained to comply with all relevant USDA and other government agency regulations. Most company sorters will have spent considerable time in training to recognize defects and deficiencies on chicken carcasses, and companies will have made substantial investments to ensure each employee performs competently…In other words, what you are requesting – a quick assignment on the evisceration line of a chicken processing plant of your choosing – is simply unrealistic.”
Mr. Brown never offered to show me the training materials that company employees are given to make them proficient to work on the slaughter line or how the training compares with that required of USDA inspectors before they are assigned on the slaughter line.
This morning, I received an email from a USDA inspector who works in a poultry slaughter plant. She made the following observation:
“By their own admissions, many (company employees) have stated that they don’t have a clue what they would be looking for if they had our job. They also have indicated that they do not believe they would receive the proper training to perform the duties of an inspector and, if the lines were sped up, there would be no way of keeping up. I have also heard (company employees) make comments to the extent that they don’t feel it would be right for them to do the job of an inspector without getting the same pay so ‘why should I care what goes down the line?’”
I was willing to work in a poultry slaughter facility to see who was telling the truth. Since both the management at USDA and the poultry industry are not willing to be transparent, I have to rely on the testimony of USDA inspection personnel to tell me what really goes on.
At the end of his letter, Mr. Brown offered to meet with me about HIMP. If he does not want me to work on the line, then he should allow me, other interested consumer representatives and members of the media to observe the poultry production process over several days in a poultry facility of our choosing. A meeting with industry representatives or even a one-day tour is unsatisfactory. If USDA and the industry have nothing to hide, then they should be as transparent as possible to back up their assertions about privatized inspection.
My letter from Mr. Brown can be found here.