USDA Wants to Double Poultry Processing Speed, Killing More Birds & Injuring More Workers

Brad Greenlee/CC BY 2.0

Take this as a further sign of just how hopelessly broken our industrial food production system is: A new piece in The Nation paints a grim picture of both how sickeningly many chickens are killed for food in the United States, as well as how the workers carrying out the grizzly work fare—hint, not well.

Read the whole thing, but just one short excerpt (the author worked at a poultry processing plant) is a glimpse of the horror show to come:

I was soon tearing through more than 7,000 chicken breasts each night (I worked the graveyard shift), while nearby workers sliced up countless birds with knives and scissors. The massive plant was capable of killing and processing nearly 1.5 million birds a week, and the pace was as relentless as such numbers suggest. We often didn’t even have time to wipe bits of chicken flesh from our faces, and I took to popping ibuprofen during breaks to quell the swelling in my hands. (Pilgrim’s Pride, the poultry giant that owned the plant, was nice enough to line one wall of the break room with dispensers filled with painkillers; it wasn’t nice enough, however, to provide them free of charge.)

Here's another sickening factoid: The current maximum speed the poultry line is supposed to move under USDA regulations is 91 chickens per minute. And they want to increase it to 175.

But let's back up: One plant in Alabama, albeit one described as "massive", kills 1.5 million chickens every week. Let's assume it runs 52 weeks a year. That's 78 million chickens killed annually in one place. Death.

Read more: New Rules Mean Hardship For Poultry Workers

Tags: Animal Welfare | Diet | Food Safety