U.S. government records discovered through a joint investigation by The Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveal stomach-turning hygiene failures at the country’s largest meat-processing plants.
The records expose meat destined for human consumption riddled with visible fecal matter and pus-filled abscesses and chicken soiled with feces or dropped on the floor rinsed with chlorine and put back on the production line.
The investigation also uncovered diseased meat packaged for human consumption. Reports on a Pilgrim’s Pride plant detailed “carcasses of poultry showing evidence of septicemic disease … carcasses showing evidence of having died from other causes than slaughter … guts of carcasses, [and] poultry carcasses with heads attached. An inspector requested that the items be removed, but a similar incident was reported just days later.
Sadly, this isn’t the first report of fecal matter or diseased meat at a U.S. slaughterhouse. In 2014, a California slaughterhouse was caught processing cows with eye cancer and selling the meat for human consumption. Additionally, the USDA reported that 90 percent of defects discovered in chicken carcasses at slaughter plants involved “visible fecal contamination that was missed by company employees.”
Filthy meat is why the United States has so many cases of foodborne illness. In fact, a new analysis reveals that as many as 15 percent, or one in seven Americans, suffers from foodborne illness annually. Professor Erik Millstone, a food safety expert at Sussex University, said:
Because of the risks of spreading infectious pathogens from carcass to carcass, and between portions of meat, the rates at which outbreaks of infectious food poisoning occur in the U.S. are significantly higher than in the UK, or the EU, and poor hygiene in the meat supply chain is [a] leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S.
Even worse, the U.S. meat lobby is pushing government officials to speed up slaughter lines. This doesn’t just endanger workers, who are already subjected to unsafe conditions, but puts the public at an even greater health risk.
What’s more, animals at factory farms and slaughterhouses are treated as mere objects. Their short lives are filled with misery and pain. Farmed animals are subjected to extreme confinement; barbaric mutilations; and bloody, violent deaths.
The truth is, if we treated just one dog or cat the way the meat, dairy, and egg industries treat billions of animals, we’d be behind bars for animal abuse. But unbelievably, not a single federal law protects animals during their lives at factory farms. And the law that’s supposed to protect animals at the slaughterhouse, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, excludes birds and rabbits, leaving them with virtually no protection from abuse.
Thankfully, no one needs to eat animal products to survive; it’s quite the opposite. Ditching animal products greatly benefits our health and the environment.