U.S. considers faster hog slaughtering based on plant staffing -union

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CHICAGO, Oct 11 (Businesshala) – The Biden administration is considering a proposal that could allow some pork plants to kill pigs if they promote employees, a union official said, a US court struck down a Trump-era rule that removed the line. Speed ​​Limit.

Companies such as WH Group Ltd’s (0288.HK) Smithfield Foods (SFII.UL) and JBS USA (JBS.UL), North American, benefit from a proposal by a large Minnesota slaughterhouse operator, quality pork processors and union officials It is possible. Unit of Brazilian Meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA).

Rapid slaughter would help them increase pork production at a time of high demand and rising bacon prices.

Seven pork plants were initially able to operate without limits on line speeds after a 2019 US Department of Agriculture rule change that did not require Congressional approval. Six plants were earlier exempted for running at high speed.

In March a federal judge invalidated the policy and forced the plants to slow down after the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union’s lawsuit against the USDA over concerns about workers’ safety.

Seaboard Foods (SEB.A), the second-largest U.S. pig producer, which previously had no exemptions, last year outlawed an Oklahoma pork plant under a 2019 rule. Workers told Businesshala that fast line speeds exacerbated injuries, and that there were not enough workers to safely operate fast production lines.

Under the new proposal, quality pork processors will be able to speed up again if the USDA and unions believe staffing levels are high enough, said Richard Morgan, president of UFCW Local, which represents the plant’s workers. . He said that the staffing level can be monitored on a daily basis.

“The number of staffing will decide what the speed of the line can be that day,” he said. “It’s all about the staffing.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week the USDA was considering a proposal for quality pork processors and that it could structure the exemptions for five other facilities. He did not give details, but appeared to be referring to the exempted facilities prior to the 2019 rule.

“I’m glad they’re tying the line speed to worker safety, but it’s all backroom dealing and doesn’t take food safety into account,” said Zach Corrigan, senior staff attorney for Food and Water Watch.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The USDA did not respond to subsequent questions, nor did Quality Pork Processors respond to requests for comment.

Morgan said workers at the company’s plant will have more time and be able to meet production goals more quickly if line speeds and staffing levels increase again. He said the workers, who are paid hourly, are working six days per week to meet production targets.

Steve Meyer, an economist at Consultancy Partners for Production Agriculture, said the plant’s maximum slaughter capacity dropped about 7% to 17,700 pigs per week after the court’s ruling took effect.

The National Pork Producers Council said that nationally, the pork industry has lost 2.5% of its slaughter capacity.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Dan Grebler

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