My 30 Years as a Poultry Inspector
Today’s blog post is by Ken Ward, a retired USDA poultry inspector with 30 years of experience on packing house floors.
When I was a USDA inspector, we went bird by bird to assure that plants were producing clean, wholesome products. But that won’t be the case if the USDA’s plan to privatize poultry inspection goes forward. I worked with the pilot phase of this plan to privatize the inspection of our poultry, but it could soon be approved for broader use… and it turns the “inspection” of our food into a sham. In plants where they’ve been testing this new process, line speeds have been permitted to run as fast as 200 birds per minute. That’s faster than any human could possibly inspect all those birds.
Privatizing inspection means shifting the actual hands-on inspection of the birds from highly trained, taxpayer-funded, unbiased, Federal employees to plant employees who are not required to have any training at all — and in doing so, the USDA had to change the name of these employees to “sorters” in lieu of inspectors, because what they’re doing is not inspection.
It is a sad state of affairs when our government is more concerned about saving money than it is about people’s health, but that’s what we’ve got here: a money-saving system that makes it impossible to do adequate inspection of our poultry. A properly trained inspector utilizes ALL of their senses to make a decision about the wholesomeness of the bird. I have no idea of how checking carcasses flying by at unregulated speeds of three per second, without any authority to touch the products, turn or do anything else, can be called “inspection.”
To put it simply, if this plan is approved, there would effectively be no inspection of our poultry. That means no one to make sure that the chicken we eat isn’t contaminated with dirt, feces, or… well, you get the idea. I’ll spare you the gross details.
The USDA should be getting the message about what a bad idea this is. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have had serious food safety problems tied to their privatized meat inspection programs. And just this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office put out a report that strongly condemned the pilot project being used to justify the plan. But the USDA needs to hear from consumers like you, too.
As a 30-year veteran in the fight of assuring food safety, and now as a consumer who relies on those unbiased federal inspectors to be my eyes, nose and hands in making sure I get wholesome chicken to eat, I’m urging the USDA not to implement this “no inspection” system — and I hope you will, too.
Join me in speaking out for safe food. Take action below.