Nearly Half of Poultry Slaughterhouses Fail USDA Salmonella Inspections

factory farm chicken
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Hundreds of USDA-inspected chicken and turkey slaughterhouses failed federal Salmonella performance standards, according to a new report. Of the 821 facilities inspected between October 2017 and October 2018, a total of 390 failed to meet these standards. In other words, almost half of poultry slaughterhouses failed the inspection.

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Over the past year, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) claims to have modernized its approach to poultry slaughter inspection. But for food producers, modernization sound more like a welcome distraction. After 390 facilities tested positive for hazardous levels of Salmonella, the FSIS will do almost nothing to intervene on the slaughterhouse floor, aside from collecting more positive tests.

Federal food safety inspectors are waiving the white flag. According to the FSIS policy, if test results indicate a loss of quality control, the slaughterhouses themselves are responsible for fixing the problem. So, the same 390 slaughterhouses that just failed the FSIS’s Salmonella performance standards will now take independent action to investigate and correct the cause of a potential outbreak.

No meat is safe. Every time a chicken or turkey is processed, regardless of whether or not the slaughterhouse fails performance standards, meat companies take a calculated risk.

They rely on consumers to cook the meat correctly, killing any bacteria that made its way from factory farms into slaughterhouses and onto dinner plates. When contaminated meat is not cooked all the way through, people get sick and die.

Report: Hundreds of chicken and turkey processing facilities failed Salmonella performance standards

inside factory farm

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

On average, the minimum sample size for the FSIS inspection was just over 10 birds. That means at least one in 10 dead birds will leave the worst facilities contaminated with Salmonella. In the case of comminuted, or “raw” chicken, one in four birds were contaminated.

Salmonella is prevalent in raw poultry and meat. To stave off the worst of the multidrug-resistant bacteria, slaughterhouses wash bird carcasses with chemicals. But carcass washes, dips, drenches, and brushes, as recommended by the FSIS, are clearly not enough. Heat is.

Heat kills Salmonella–at 160°F. If the meat is cooked properly, there should be no problem. That’s why you hear about so much contaminated meat being pulled off the shelves at grocery stores. Meat companies rely heavily on the food safety warnings found in fine print on back of meat packaging. They know the meat’s potentially contaminated. They’re just willing to take the risk, or pass it down the line.

This plays right into the hands of big meat companies

Because the FSIS passes responsibility for food safety down the line to meat companies, meat companies follow suit. They adopt their own food safety standards. Then they leave it to the consumer to squint at food labels and cook their chicken correctly.

Now, play that same logic in reserve. Consumers trusts meat companies to sell uncontaminated meat. Meat companies adopt food safety standards, which they communicate to the FSIS. Then when nearly half of slaughterhouses fail FSIS inspections, consumers don’t know where to look.

And therein lies the problem. Neither meat companies nor the FSIS wants to be solely responsible for a problem as large as Salmonella in the United States.

But this year, another 274 processing facilities surpassed 50% or more of the instances of Salmonella needed to fail the inspection. That brings the running total of failing and near-failing slaughterhouses to 664, none of which will be shut down. Instead, FSIS inspectors conduct a Public Health Risk Evaluation, which may lead to a Food Safety Assessment and more frequent sampling at failing facilities.

All the while, the slaughterhouse line keeps moving.

Salmonella performance standards work a lot like TSA Pre-Check

No meat is safe, according to the national Salmonella prevention guidelines, so individual processing facilities prescribe food safety procedures to ensure meat leaves the building uncontaminated. Once these procedures are in place, it’s up to the FSIS to monitor their effectiveness.

For all the TSA has done for travelers, they could teach the FSIS a thing or two about the No Fly List. Even if a pre-checked slaughterhouse fails to meet Salmonella performance standards, the slaughterhouse can continue to operate at its own discretion.

chicken cage farm

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Yes, you read that correctly. The worst facilities–many of which reported instances of Salmonella upwards of 25%–are processing chicken and turkey today. One in four pieces of meat leave contaminated.

In late 2013, two years after the Center for Disease Control reported 19 Salmonella outbreaks across the U.S., the FSIS announced a new Salmonella Action Plan.

The plan resulted in two important Salmonella Performance Categories: no more than 13.5% of raw turkey samples to test positive for Salmonella and no more than 25% of raw chicken samples.

But testing positive for Salmonella is only part of the problem. Because the FSIS defers responsibility to processing facilities, there is no way to enforce a food safety standard that will limit the amount of contaminated meat that makes it to market.

Slaughterhouses inspected by the FSIS processed at least 20,000 chickens in the past year (or 1,000 pounds of meat per day).

Perdue Farms slaughterhouses were some of the largest and most offensive facilities sampled. Every year, Perdue facilities process about 700 million chickens. Eight of 11 Perdue facilities failed the inspection.

Salmonella isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse.

When asked to comment, an official from the FSIS said that historically, Salmonella protection is getting better. That’s true, for the FSIS.

In 2011, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of contaminated ground beef. This year, Cargill’s name only appears once on the FSIS’s list of the worst offenders. The FSIS’s Salmonella protection might be getting better–but Salmonella, the multidrug-resistant bacteria, is getting worse.

The number of Salmonella outbreaks are approaching a seven-year high. For the first time since Salmonella outbreak data became available in 2006, multiple outbreaks have been linked to raw chicken and turkey in the same year.

Over the past two months, JBS Tolleson, a subsidiary of the world’s largest meat company, recalled 12 million pounds of contaminated ground beef.

The worst offenders

Close to half (47.5%) of all chicken and turkey slaughterhouses inspected by the FSIS between October 2017-18 failed to meet Salmonella performance standards. The FSIS’s Category Performance Standards break down by the rate of samples that tested positive for Salmonella. The range accounts for facilities that process different parts of the bird, and as a result, have to meet different performance standards.

  • Category 3: Chicken (10-25%) or more tested positive for Salmonella; turkey (7-13%) or more
  • Category 2: Chicken (5-25%) tested positive; turkey (3-13%)
  • Category 1: Chicken (0-12%) tested positive; turkey (0-7%)

On the slaughterhouse floor, this looks like more than one out of every four raw chicken samples contaminated with Salmonella at Category-3 facilities. For raw turkey, the FSIS reported more than one in 10 samples contaminated.

Because of the lack of comprehensive food safety at meat processing facilities, Salmonella is becoming a public health crisis. Here are the worst of the Category-3 facilities, all of which will receive Public Health Risk Evaluations. Inspectors may collect samples as frequently as once a shift at Category-3 facilities.

  1. Perdue Farms. Almost 75% of all Perdue Farms facilities failed the inspection.
  2. Pilgrim’s Farms. A total of 26% of Pilgrim’s Farms facilities failed the inspection.
  3. Sanderson Farms. Another 17% of Sanderson Farms facilities failed the inspection.

All told, the worst Category-3 offenders–which also happen to be the second-, third-, and fourth-largest chicken producers in the U.S.–processed about 16.9 billion pounds of chicken during the FSIS’s 52-week monitoring period.

A week prior to the release of the USDA report, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods, recalled nearly 150,000 pounds of contaminated meat.

Since November 5, 164 people have contracted Salmonella Reading from raw turkey products in 35 states. So far, 63 people have been hospitalized and one person has died.

The CDC is currently investigating the Salmonella Reading outbreak linked to turkey. Salmonella Reading is a multidrug-resistance strain of the Salmonella bacteria.

In mid-November, state and federal agencies, including the CDC, FSIS, and Arizona Department of Health Services, matched a strain of Salmonella Reading from an unopened package of Jennie-O ground turkey to the outbreak strain.

According to the FSIS, this does not definitively link the outbreak to Jennie-O ground turkey. Patients from the 164-case Salmonella cluster reported eating different types and brand of turkey. They purchased turkey products from different stores and handled raw turkey in both human and pet food. Many also came in contact with live turkeys.

CDC: Salmonella “could be widespread in the turkey industry”

Hormel said the company will continue to work along with the rest of the turkey industry to reduce Salmonella. Their efforts are evident in the lower FSIS Salmonella performance standard for raw turkey relative to raw chicken.

“More responsibility is placed now on the establishments to test for pathogens and actively prevent foodborne illness,” according to a spokesperson from the FSIS. “We are always working to get better and faster.”

The lower performance standard for raw turkey (13.5%) indicates more industry confidence in raw turkey than raw chicken (25%) producers to keep things clean. For the record, neither meat is more or less prone to Salmonella contamination than the other.

“Recent massive recalls due to Salmonella outbreaks… offer a serious reminder that the public deserves more transparency and accountability from the meat industry,” Irina Anta, Counsel for Compassion Over Killing.

turkey factory farm

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Jennie-O processes 1.3 billion pounds of turkey every year. Four Jennie-O facilities made the Category-3 offenders list. Perdue Farms processes 3.2 billion pounds of chicken every year. Eight Perdue Farms made FSIS’s Category-3 list.

With outbreaks of this magnitude, processing 2 billion fewer pounds of meat does not make Jennie-O turkey 11.5% less likely to contain Salmonella. At the end of the day, no meat is safe.

In the months leading up to the release of the USDA report, 92 people reported Salmonella Infantis linked to raw chicken products across more than half of the continental U.S.

A common supplier of contaminated chicken has not been identified yet. The FSIS found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis in live chickens and many different kinds of raw chicken products.

According to officials from the CDC, the levels of contamination found indicate the outbreak may be widespread throughout the chicken industry.

Salmonella is a complicated issue for the poultry industry as a whole,” said an official from the FSIS.

More complicated issues usually warrant more safeguards. Somehow, that logic is lost on the farm animal industry. The entire factory farming operation–where Salmonella often originates–is built to meet consumer demand, not Salmonella performance standards.

turkey farm dark

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

“Factory farms that raise chickens and turkeys for meat are filthy and overcrowded,” said Sharon Nunez, President of Animal Equality. “The tens of thousands of birds crammed into these dark sheds are forced to live in their own waste.”

Inside the slaughterhouse, the message is: so, we have to be better, faster at breaking down animals. Companies write their food safety standards with this in mind. Speed first. Animal welfare, performance standards, heck–foodborne illness, later.

“It’s no wonder that these facilities are breeding grounds for Salmonella,” said Nunez.

A history of criminal incompetence

This is what happens when profits drive food inspection policy. Producers get comfortable. They slip up, and without the appropriate industry safeguards, people get sick (a lot of people) and some of them die.

By refusing to hold food processors responsible for failing Salmonella performance standards, the USDA is failing consumers.

“The profit-driven chicken and turkey industries are producing cheap meat as quickly as possible, often at the expense of animal welfare, as well as, worker and consumer safety,” said Anta.

Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the United States every year. It’s increasingly resistant to antibiotics and increasingly widespread throughout the farm animal industry.

Rampant Salmonella outbreaks demonstrate a history of criminal incompetence on the part of the USDA and meat companies. When a federal agency promotes faster slaughter and “better” Salmonella performance standards, the movement away from such an inhumane and unsanitary practice is lost. The result is sickening.

animal abuse chicken

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Call your local slaughterhouse

No matter how many times meat companies and federal agencies remind us that meat is safe, they won’t change our minds. Eating animals is wrong. People choose to eat meat because they’ve been conditioned to eat meat their entire lives, but change has to start somewhere. The historic levels of Salmonella contamination this year should stand as a reminder that no meat is safe.

Meat companies need to step up or shut down. Consumers should not be held responsible–at the cost of their lives and millions of animal lives–for the criminal incompetence of the meat industry.

Hundreds of chicken and turkey slaughterhouses failed federal Salmonella performance standards and now, no meat is safe.

Let them hear your voice. Demand more transparency and accountability from the meat industry. Call your local slaughterhouse. If you live in Gainesville, Georgia or Chattanooga, Tennessee, call a few.

Here’s the complete list of slaughterhouses that failed the inspection and how to reach them. 1-800 numbers not included.

We tried as many numbers as we could. You won’t get a machine on the other end. You’ll talk to a person who–unlike the intern answering phones at your local congressman or woman’s office–is not anticipating an angry caller. Please be respectful.

 

Note: All facilities were responsible for slaughtering 20,000 or more animals last year.

ProcessorCityStateType of meat Contact
Abbyland Foods, Inc.AbbotsfordWIComminuted Turkey(715) 223-6386
Abbyland Foods, Inc.CurtissWIComminuted Turkey(715) 223-8154
Allen Harim Foods, LLC.HarbesonDEYoung Chicken Carcasses(302) 684-1640
Allen Harim Foods, LLC.HarbesonDEChicken Parts(302) 684-1640
Amick Farms, LLCBatesburgSCChicken Parts(803) 532-1400
Ayrshire Farm Management, LLCUppervilleVAYoung Chicken Carcasses(540) 592-7018
B&B Poultry Co., Inc.NormaNJChicken Parts(856) 692-8893
B&B Poultry Co., Inc.NormaNJComminuted Chicken(856) 692-8893
Bert Posess IncPatersonNJChicken Parts(973) 754-1100
Brushy Prairie Packing, Inc.LagrangeINYoung Chicken Carcasses(260) 367-2708
Butterball, LLCMount OliveNCComminuted Turkey(919) 658-6743
Butterball, LLCCarthageMOComminuted Turkey(417) 423-8801
Butterfield Foods CompanyButterfieldMNChicken Parts(507) 956-5103
Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.SpringdaleARComminuted Turkey(479) 756-4691
Case Farms Processing, IncCantonOHChicken Parts(330) 452-0230
Charley & Son’sAtlantaGAChicken Parts(404) 366-4442
Coastal Processing, LLCLouisvilleGAChicken Parts(478) 377-6039
Cougle Commission Co.ChicagoILChicken Parts(312) 666-7861
Crescent FoodsChicagoILChicken Parts(773) 247-6005
Custom Made MealsDenverCOComminuted Chicken(303) 227-4993
Dakota Provisions LLCHuronSDComminuted Turkey(605) 352-1519
David Elliot Poultry Farm Inc.ScrantonPAYoung Chicken Carcasses(570) 344-6348
Dbran Poultry Co.La PuenteCAChicken Parts(626) 961-8070
Detroit Sausage Company, Inc.DetroitMIComminuted Chicken(313) 259-0555
DG Foods, LLCBastropLAChicken Parts(318) 281-1060
DiLuigi, IncDanversMAComminuted Chicken(978) 750-9900
Dupont Market Inc. dba Grimaud FarmsStocktonCAChicken Parts(209) 466-3200
Fieldale Farms CorporationGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(770) 536-3899
Fieldale Farms CorporationMurrayvilleGAChicken Parts(770) 534-7373
Foster FarmsTurlockCAComminuted Turkey(209) 668-5922
Fulton Troika, LLCChicagoILChicken Parts(312) 421-5566
George’s Chicken, LLCEdinburgVAChicken Parts(540) 984-4121
George’s Processing, Inc.SpringdaleARChicken Parts(479) 927-7600
Gerber Poultry, Inc.KidronOHChicken Parts(330) 857-2731
Gerber Poultry, Inc.KidronOHComminuted Chicken(330) 857-2731
Gold Creek Processing LLCGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(678) 928-6970
Gold Creek Processing, LLCGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(678) 928-6970
Gold Creek Processing, LLCDawsonvilleGAComminuted Chicken(706) 216-8640
Hain Pure Protein Corporation – FreeBird EastFredericksburgPAYoung Chicken Carcasses(717) 639-3381
Hain Pure Protein Corporation – FreeBird WestFredericksburgPAComminuted Chicken(717) 639-3381
Hain Pure Protein Corporation – Plainville Farms LLCNew OxfordPAComminuted Turkey(717) 624-2191
Harrison Poultry, Inc.BethlehemGAChicken Parts(770) 867-7511
Heatherfield Foods Inc.OntarioCAComminuted Chicken(909) 460-9910
House of Raeford Farms of LAArcadiaLAYoung Chicken Carcasses(318) 263-9004
House of Raeford Farms of LAArcadiaLAChicken Parts(318) 263-9004
Huismann’s PoultryHarrisonOHYoung Chicken Carcasses(513) 367-4214
HVFG, LLCFerndaleNYYoung Chicken Carcasses(845) 292-2500
IHSAN FARMS, IICPrincess AnneMDYoung Chicken Carcasses(410) 651-1495
Isernio’s Sausage Co.KentWAComminuted Chicken(253) 395-5465
JCG IndustriesChicagoILChicken Parts(773) 286-4343
JCG IndustriesFranklin ParkILChicken Parts(773) 286-4343
Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, Inc.FaribaultMNComminuted Turkey(507) 334-5555
Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLCBarronWIComminuted Turkey(715) 537-3131
Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLCWillmarMNComminuted Turkey(320) 235-2622
Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, LLCWillmarMNComminuted Turkey(320) 235-2622
Joyce Foods, Inc.Winston SalemNCComminuted Chicken(336) 766-9900
Koch Foods LLCMorristownTNChicken Parts(423) 586-5722
Koch Foods of AlabamaMontgomeryALChicken Parts(334) 281-0400
Koch Foods of Cumming GeorgiaCummingGAChicken Parts(770) 844-8416
Koch Foods of Gadsden, LLCGadsdenALChicken Parts(256) 549-6200
Koch Foods of Gainesville GAGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(706) 531-8289
Koch Foods of MississippiForestMSChicken Parts(601) 469-2337
Koch Foods, LLCChattanoogaTNYoung Chicken Carcasses(423) 821-7858
Lawson Foods Inc.IrvingtonNJChicken Parts(973) 375-2300
Longhini LLCNew HavenCTComminuted Chicken(203) 624-7110
M&S Group, Inc.PelahatchieMSChicken Parts+44 020 7935 4422
Mar-Jac Poultry-ALJasperALChicken Parts(205) 387-1441
Mar-Jac Poultry-MSHattiesburgMSChicken Parts(601) 544-3141
Martin Preferred Foods, L.P.HoustonTXChicken Parts(713) 869-6191
Meat Processing Career CenterOrientOHComminuted Chicken(614) 877-9418
Michigan Turkey Producers Co-op, Inc.WyomingMIComminuted Turkey(616) 245-2221
Midwest Poultry, Inc.Fort WorthTXChicken Parts(817) 921-2888
Natural State ProcessingClintonARYoung Chicken Carcasses(501) 745-2037
New NY Wanrong Trading Corp.Long Island CityNYChicken Parts(718) 361-8882
Norman W. Fries, Inc.ClaxtonGAYoung Chicken Carcasses(912) 739-3181
Norman W. Fries, Inc.ClaxtonGAChicken Parts(912) 739-3181
Otto’s Poultry Inc.MiddlevilleMIYoung Chicken Carcasses(269) 795-7696
P H Foods IncMortonMSChicken Parts(601) 732-8670
Perdue Foods LLCMontereyTNChicken Parts(931) 839-5000
PERDUE FOODS LLCGeorgetownDEChicken Parts(302) 855-5555
Perdue Foods LLCDillonSCChicken Parts(843) 841-8000
Perdue Foods LLCCromwellKYChicken Parts(270) 274-6050
Perdue Foods LLCPerryGAChicken Parts(478) 988-6000
PERDUE FOODS LLCGeorgetownDEComminuted Chicken(302) 855-5555
Perdue Foods LLCWashingtonINComminuted Turkey(812) 254-8500
Perdue Foods, LLCSalisburyMDYoung Chicken Carcasses(410) 543-3000
Perdue Foods, LLCSalisburyMDChicken Parts(410) 543-3000
Perdue Foods, LLCAccomacVAChicken Parts(757) 787-5200
Perdue Foods, LLC.RockinghamNCChicken Parts(910) 997-8600
Perdue Foods, LLC.RockinghamNCComminuted Chicken(910) 997-8600
Petersburg Poultry ProcessingPetersburgILYoung Chicken Carcasses(217) 501-2316
Pilgrim’sCantonGAYoung Chicken Carcasses(678) 493-3000
Pilgrim’s Pride CorporationMoorefieldWVChicken Parts(304) 538-2381
Pilgrim’s Pride CorporationAthensGAChicken Parts(706) 549-2819
Pilgrim’s Pride CorporationDouglasGAChicken Parts(912) 384-4185
Pilgrims Pride CorporationLive OakFLYoung Chicken Carcasses(386) 362-2544
Pilgrims Pride CorporationGuntersvilleALChicken Parts(256) 582-5631
Pilgrims Pride CorporationChattanoogaTNChicken Parts(423) 756-2471
Pilgrims Pride CorporationLive OakFLChicken Parts(386) 362-2544
Pilgrims Pride CorporationChattanoogaTNChicken Parts(423) 756-2471
Pine Manor Inc.OrlandINChicken Parts(574) 831-5988
Pitman FarmsSangerCAYoung Chicken Carcasses(559) 875-9300
Pitman FarmsSangerCAChicken Parts(559) 875-9300
Premio Foods, Inc.Union CityNJComminuted Chicken(973) 427-1106
Prestage Foods, Inc.St PaulsNCComminuted Turkey(910) 865-6611
Prestige Farms, Inc.CharlotteNCChicken Parts(704) 596-2824
Prime Pak FoodsGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(770) 536-8708
SANDERSON FARMS, INCSt PaulsNCChicken Parts(910) 887-2284
Sanderson Farms, Inc.WacoTXYoung Chicken Carcasses(254) 412-3800
Sanderson Farms, Inc.KinstonNCYoung Chicken Carcasses(252) 522-9145
Sanderson Farms, Inc.PalestineTXYoung Chicken Carcasses(903) 723-2112
Sanderson Farms, Inc.KinstonNCChicken Parts(430) 235-2101
SHENANDOAH VALLEY ORGANICHarrisonburgVAChicken Parts(540) 433-8500
Signature Pack, LLCPendergrassGAChicken Parts(706) 693-4344
Simmons Prepared Foods, Inc.Van BurenARChicken Parts(479) 215-2358
Simply Essentials Poultry, LLCCharles CityIAYoung Chicken Carcasses(641) 228-4127
Southeast Poultry, Inc.RogersARChicken Parts(479) 636-3600
Squab Producers Of CaliforniaModestoCAYoung Chicken Carcasses(209) 537-4744
To-Ricos, Ltd.AibonitoPRChicken Parts(787) 735-8061
Turkey Valley Farms LLCMarshallMNComminuted Turkey(507) 337-3100
Tyson FoodsMonroeNCYoung Chicken Carcasses(704) 283-7571
Tyson Foods, Inc.CenterTXYoung Chicken Carcasses(936) 598-2723
Urseilas Meat IILos AngelesCAComminuted Chicken(323) 565-1940
Victory FoodsGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(678) 343-2070
Victory Management GroupGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(678) 343-2070
Victory Management GroupGainesvilleGAComminuted Chicken(678) 343-2070
Waltkoch LTDGainesvilleGAChicken Parts(770) 536-0224
Wayne Farms, LLCDobsonNCChicken Parts(336) 386-8151
Win Fat LLCMonterey ParkCAChicken Parts(323) 261-1869
Zacky and Sons Poultry, LLC.FresnoCAYoung Chicken Carcasses(559) 443-2700
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