top of page
  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

3 Reasons Why Increasing Poultry Line Speeds Is A Horrific Idea

Big Agribusiness lobbyists and industry trade group, the National Chicken Council (NCC), has petitioned the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request the waiver of current speed limitations on chicken slaughter lines. Not only would this rapacious and narrow-minded request worsen the current egregious methods used to slaughter chickens, but also poses an increased threat to the safety of poultry line workers, as well as public health. The following are the three primary reasons why:

1. Inhumane Treatment

Inhumane doesn't seem to cover what chickens endure in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Putting extreme confinement, debeaking, and horrendous living conditions aside for the sake of focusing on poultry lines, current law requires a maximum poultry processing line speed of 140 birds per minute.

No federal laws in the United States require that chickens are to be rendered unconscious before slaughter. Although the poultry industry claims they're doing so regardless, numerous investigations have proven that is not the case. Chickens are hung upside down and run through an 'electrified water bath' meant to stun them before slaughter. However, those attempts often fail, and an overwhelming amount of chickens experience those electric stocks, but are still conscious when slaughtered, and recent science shows the death is excruciating.

Failure to successfully render these sentient and intelligent beings unconscious before slaughter is often because line workers cannot keep up with current line speeds, which doesn't allow enough time to work the stunning equipment properly; an issue that will be exacerbated by removing the existing speed requirements.

2. Worker Safety

Although people often don't think about the risks of working a poultry line when purchasing chicken at the grocery store, it is one of the most dangerous jobs there is. Interviews with poultry line workers have shown that those individuals suffer carpal tunnel syndrome and painful back and neck conditions from constant repetition. They also often accidentally cut themselves and each other, due to their frantic attempts to keep up with current line speeds.

"The line is so fast there is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt, and that’s when you cut yourself."

—Smithfield Foods meatpacking line worker,

Red Springs, NC, December 2003

When poultry line workers cut or injure themselves, they often don't report the incidents because of pressure from leadership and out of fear of losing their jobs. In 2016, the United States Government Accountability Office published a report acknowledging that very issue. That same report pointed out other concerns, such as public health.

3. Public Health

On October 10th, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Marc Perrone, sent a letter to the USDA urging their rejection of the petition.

Perrone's letter points out the fact that forcing lines to move faster not only increases the risk of injury and illness of line workers but that, "Increased line speeds will also make it harder for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination that could make consumers sick."

He went on to state that the petition from the NCC "... clearly poses a dangerous risk to American families."

Cost-Saving Actions - At The Risk Of Costing Lives

The NCC's petition notes that removing max line speed requirements will save businesses funds, stating, "These cost saving actions are consistent with the regulatory reform initiatives recently put in place by the President, and waivers are consistent with the Administration’s emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens on the industry." Knowing the increased pain, injuries and illness the NCC's request could cause, you can't help but wonder how many human lives the factory farming industry is willing to put at risk for saving a dime. When it comes to the lives of non-human animals, we already know they’re willing to deny the humane death of an estimated 9 billion chickens for consumption in the United States per year.

1. Submit A Comment To The USDA Urging Rejection Of The NCC’s Petition

Follow this link and click on the Blue Comment button to submit a comment to the USDA now.

DEADLINE: Wed. December 13, 2017 (11:59pm)

Example: “ I oppose the National Chicken Council’s petition to increase poultry slaughter line speed limits. Such changes to already lax regulations would irresponsibly pose an increased threat to public health and line workers, while also exacerbating the current immense amounts of animal suffering within the poultry industry.”

2. Spread The Word

Please share this with your family and friends, and urge them to submit a comment as well.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page