Tainted Beef? USDA Eyes Whether Bad Meat Entered Food Supply

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Byline: Associated Press Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. -- Federal regulators who shut down a Central California slaughterhouse after receiving an animal welfare video were investigating Tuesday whether beef from sick cows reached the human food supply.

The video appears to show workers bungling the slaughter of cows struggling to walk and even stand. Under federal regulations, sick animals cannot be slaughtered for human consumption.

The investigation will determine whether sick cows were slaughtered and whether meat products from the company should be recalled, said Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.

The agency suspended operations Monday at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford after receiving the video Friday from the animal welfare group Compassion Over Killing. The footage shows animals bleeding and thrashing after being repeatedly shot in the head with a pneumatic gun in unsuccessful efforts to render them unconscious for slaughter.

Federal regulations say that to avoid unnecessary suffering during slaughter, animals must be rendered unconscious by a single shot to the head from a pneumatic gun that fires a bolt through the skull to pierce the brain.

In-N-Out Burger, a fast food chain, severed its ties with the company after learning about the situation. Mark Taylor, chief operating officer, said on Tuesday that the company acted immediately upon becoming aware of it.

"As soon as we became aware of the allegations regarding Central Valley Meat Company and their handling of cattle, we immediately severed our supplier relationship with them. …