CHICKEN LOBBY SEEKS TO GUT CAPS, KILL MORE CHICKENS PER MINUTE FOR PROFIT DESPITE CONCERNS
Do you like chicken? Pretty much almost everyone likes chicken, but they don’t often want to know about where that chicken comes from, never mind how it gets to their plate. Industry inevitably wants to sell and deliver as much chicken as possible, which makes production a dirty and disturbing affair. Essentially, there is a National Chicken Council and they want to gut production rules from the Obama Administration.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER, CHICKEN COUNCIL WORKS WITH REPUBLICANS TO END SAFTEY LIMITS
The National Chicken Council is working with various Republican lawmakers to get rid of rules that limit the per-minute number if chicken carcasses that US poultry plants can produce. As there is a rising demand for poultry, there is money to be made. So, if there are no limits for these plants, then demand can be met without all the messy details about why the limits were created in the first place. With Trump in the White House, the National Chicken Council hopes to cash in with a bird in hand and get rid of the rules established under Obama.
INDUSTRY SAYS 140 CARCASSES A MINUTE NOT ENOUGH FOR DEMAND, SAYS 140 BIRDS IN HAND INSUFFICIENT
This is what sets the table and why the chicken industry is lobbying hard for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow chicken processing plants to abandon current inspection line restrictions that “only” allows plants to process 140 bird carcasses each minute—roughly two birds a second—according to a report from NBC News.
The lobbying group created a petition last month describing the 140 limit “arbitrary” (which sounds strangely familiar), making the request that plants be able to “operate at any line speed at which they can maintain process control.” The petition uses language right out of K Street and suggests that deregulating line speed would help Trump in his quest to reduce “regulatory burdens on the industry” and to “make the federal government more efficient.”
LIMITS EXIST TO PROTECT WORKER RIGHTS AS WELL AS FOOD SAFETY, INDUSTRY SAYS IT’S “ARBITRARY”
Big Chicken had previously pressured the Obama administration to speed up inspection lines, but the USDA policy remained, mostly due to efforts from workers’ rights and food safety advocates who raised concerns that the lack of restrictions would harm workers and lead to more cases of contamination.
But Representative Doug Collins (not the NBA basketball coach), who represents a Georgia district with many chicken processing plants, is teaming up with the National Chicken Council, who challenge that slaughterhouses and processing plants need such regulation. In a recent op-ed for The Hill, he wrote that liberals with concerns about conditions in poultry plants must still think the industry operates in the bleak landscape described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
“The conditions are safer now because we have laws that were written because of the Upton Sinclair era,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch told media. “We have laws that say that the government will be in plants and they’ll look at every bird and they’ll look at every carcass. The industry loves taking shots at those rules. And that’s what this is. You’re taking animals apart and that’s messy and you have to do that carefully.”
CHICKEN SPOKESPERSON TUTS, CLUCKS, SAYS UNLIMITED SPEEDS SOMEHOW SAFER FOR WORKERS AND FOOD HYGIEN
But National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super told media that the plants that would have the quicker line speeds would then also have higher food safety scrutiny and government oversight than plants with slower speeds. “We’ve had 20 plants operating at higher line speeds for almost 20 years as part of a USDA pilot project to modernize poultry inspection” Super said. “Over that time, the data consistently show that those plants perform on par or better in terms of worker safety and food safety.”
But Lovera said Food & Water Watch is skeptical of the very data collected from those plants. “We look at those too. We have to FOIA the agencies to get the data,” she said. “The US Government Accountability Office has criticized the pilot project that the USDA is basing that on. They’ve criticized it for the way that they collect the data and the analysis they did. We’re not convinced that the data backs it up.”
CHICKEN THE NEW CANARY IN THE COAL MINE FOR WORKER SAFETY?
The National Chicken Council also claims that the part of the line that would be affected by speed increases has been largely automated, so worker safety should not be much of a concern. But several work-safety organization like the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union still believe increased line speeds would endanger workers. “As you must know, poultry workers hold some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America. The implications of this rule change are striking,” Marc Perrone, president of the UFCW, wrote in a letter to Carmen Rottenberg, the acting deputy under-secretary for food safety at the USDA.
Compared to the average private industry worker, poultry workers have double the chance of getting seriously hurt at work and six times the chance of getting sick, according to OSHA.