A Hanford meat processor has shut down temporarily after video evidence of alleged abuse is viewed by the USDA. The investigation continues into possible inhumane treatment of cows at the Central Valley Meat Co., Inc.
The allegations could have major implications both on hundreds of jobs and the safety of our food supply. Compassion Over Killing says some of the cows may have been sick when they were slaughtered. So far, no beef has been recalled.
Inside a large processing plant in Hanford an international animal rights group says workers are torturing cows. A member of Compassion Over Killing got a job at Central Valley Meat Co. and shot video with a hidden camera.
“[Cows are] being stunned and are still thrashing around. There're vomiting, there's blood pouring out their noses, and they're dropped to a conveyor belt below the area and being hoisted up by a chain wrapped around a back leg,” said Erica Meier, Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing.
A spokesperson for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service said this:
"Upon confirming several humane handling violations, FSIS suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation."
Required government inspectors, who were apparently at the plant when the abuse happened, have been removed. Many cows processed at the plant are milk cows that are too old to produce milk. Compassion Over Killing says some are sick.
“There are electric prods used over and over again on cows who are too sick or weak to stand up,” said Meier.
Sick cows should not be processed because of the risk of illness. No beef has been recalled. Tuesday, In N Out severed its relationship with Central Valley Meat Company, citing cruelty to animals. Valley lawmakers hope the issue is cleared up to preserve hundreds of jobs. Congressman Jim Costa personally knows the family that owns the plant.
“The Coelho family that has had this facility for years and have grown and provided a source of employment for almost 500 families want to do everything they can to have humane treatment and comply with the law,” said Congressman Costa.
Company president Brian Coelho released a statement Tuesday afternoon. It reads as follows:
“At Central Valley Meat Co., ensuring that the livestock we process are treated humanely is critically important. Our company seeks not just to meet federal humane handling regulations, but to exceed them.
We were extremely disturbed to be informed by the United States Department of Agriculture that inspection was suspended and our plant could not operate based upon a videotape that was provided to the Department by a third party group and that alleged inhumane treatment of animals on our property. This video has not yet been shared with our company so we cannot respond specifically to its contents.
However, we are cooperating fully with USDA in its investigation. In addition, we have retained an outside animal welfare expert to assist us in our own internal investigation.
Humane handling at Central Valley Meat Co. is supervised by family members and managers who have a long tenure with the company. As a federally-inspected plant, all handling activities are also performed under the continuous inspection of USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel who are empowered to take immediate action when they observe a problem. That is why these allegations are both disturbing and surprising.
Our family owned business has operated continuously for 50 years. Our reputation and the trust our customers place in our company means everything to us. We take these allegations seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can.”