Animal Welfare in Meat Plants

May 25, 2016

You can find just about anything on the internet with a few quick clicks. One thing you may come across is myths about meat inspection or the lack of it in the meat industry.

We wanted to provide you with some facts about how our industry is inspected

Inspection is required to sell meat. First off, it is important to note that any meat processing plant that sells meat must have USDA inspector on site. No other sector of the agriculture industry has the same level of oversight as the meat industry. The number of inspectors in a plant is varies with its size and the number and types of products it produces. Without inspectors, it is unlawful for a meat processing plant operate.

The entire process is monitored: The inspection process starts with the live animals. To enter the food chain animals must be able to walk on their own and free from any signs of disease or illness. Then inspectors inspect the organs and glands as well as the meat to make sure the carcass is free from disease and contamination. Any animals that raise question are further inspected before they are allowed to enter the food chain. Inspection of meat is on a pass or fail basis. There is no meat that is marked as “maybe” safe for human consumption.

USDA inspectors also observe the cutting up and further processing of meat. They ensure that the facilities are properly cleaned, that proper temperatures are observed on cooked products, and that meat is cooled properly. They even inspect the plant’s paperwork to be sure that all the processes are documented correctly.

USDA inspectors monitor food safety and animal welfare. Inspectors are also present for the slaughtering processes to insure humane practices are being used. Dr. Janice Swanson, a professor at Michigan State University who specializes in animal behavior and welfare stated “since that time [passing of the Humane Slaughter of Livestock Act, 1978] forward we have made many improvements, we’ve got inspectors who are trained and have different audit points… so we can ensure the public that those animals are rendered unconscious before slaughtering.”

Humane handling is important to the processors. It is not only the right thing to do, but also has an economic benefit. Poor handling of animals can result in a lower quality product. While there have been instances in which those handling livestock have vailed to comply to with the standards, it is important to remember these are an exception and not reflective of the who industry. This industry had demonstrated commitment to animal welfare and obtained a level of improvement over time in animal welfare indicators


Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?


    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update


    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet


    read more »

Social Media