USDA Grants Cargill Beef Self-Inspection, Raising Food Safety Concerns

Similar scheme at pork plants has created serious food safety issues

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Food System

A Cargill cattle slaughter plant in Schuyler, Nebraska has been granted a regulatory waiver by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will allow the plant’s employees to perform several critical safety inspections instead of federal inspectors.  

USDA informed union officials representing inspectors that the switch will start next week, with full implementation to begin the week of May 2.

It is only the second beef plant to be granted this permission, and the first under the Biden administration. Last year, Food & Water Watch released agency documents showing that pork plants operating in a similar pilot program for swine had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants. 

The USDA’s waiver occurs at the same time that the USDA has been defending the pig slaughter system in court.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Attorney Zach Corrigan issued the following statement: 

“By transferring critical inspection duties to plant employees, the USDA is allowing plants to essentially inspect their own beef.  This is fundamentally dangerous for consumers. Pork plants that switched to this system saw a two-fold increase in violations for contamination of fecal matter and digestive contents. While this is only one plant, it is the second pilot plant for a program the Biden administration plans to implement for the entire industry.  At a time when consumers are already wrestling with the high prices due to industry consolidation, the USDA is asking consumers to jeopardize their health.”