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Change in Hog Slaughter Inspection Rules Cited as Reason to Buy Local Meat

North Carolina is home to more than 2,000 hog farm operations. (Adobe Stock)
North Carolina is home to more than 2,000 hog farm operations. (Adobe Stock)
October 10, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. – In a few weeks, pork companies will be able to inspect their own slaughterhouses, due to recent changes to U.S. Department of Agriculture hog slaughter inspection rules.

The rule changes shift food safety protection tasks from government inspectors to the pork industry.

Patty Lovera, food and water program director at Food and Water Watch, says the government has dismantled a unique consumer protection.

"The USDA is sending their employees in there, who are working for consumers,” she explains. “They don't work for the company. Shifting some of that responsibility to somebody who works for the company is a whole different ballgame."

In a statement on the North American Meat Institute's website, the organization says the changes are based on science and years of experience, and says they will spur innovation in food safety protocols.

Lovera says the rule change will affect how fast a plant is allowed to process pork. She points out faster speeds tend to increase the odds of fecal contamination and food-borne illness.

"So under this new rule that the USDA put out, they would lift the caps on the line speed of how fast a hog slaughterhouse could run," she points out.

The inspection shift will affect the nation's largest pork plants – what Lovera coins the "biggest players" in the industry.

She says now is a good time for Americans to think local when it comes to choosing where to buy pork.

"It's a good motivator to think about, ‘What supply chain am I in?’” she states. “So, ‘Who am I buying from?’

“And if you could buy from someone who is operating at a more local scale, they could tell you we go to this small slaughterhouse, we know what kind of inspection they have, we know what kind of practices they have, this might be one more reason to do that homework and figure that out."

North Carolina is home to some of the largest hog farm operations in the country, employing nearly 50,000 people.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC