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USDA Plan to Speed up Poultry-processing Lines Could Increase Risk of Bird Abuse

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

Nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are unintentionally boiled alive each year in U.S. slaughterhouses, often because fast-moving lines fail to kill the birds before they are dropped into scalding water, Agriculture Department records show.

Now the USDA is finalizing a proposal that would allow poultry companies to accelerate their processing lines, with the aim of removing pathogens from the food supply and making plants more efficient. But that would also make the problem of inhumane treatment worse, according to government inspectors and experts in poultry slaughter.

USDA inspectors assigned to the plants say much of the cruel treatment they witness is tied to the rapid pace at which employees work, flipping live birds upside down and shackling their legs. If the birds are not properly secured, they might elude the automated blade and remain alive when they enter the scalder.

Over the past five years, an annual average of 825,000 chickens and 18,000 turkeys died this way, USDA public reports show, representing less than 1 percent of the total processed. Government inspectors assigned to the plants document these kills, which are easily spotted because the birds' skin becomes discolored.    


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