The National Chicken Council (NCC) filed a petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to free them from the 140 birds-per-minute cap set by the Obama administration. The NCC says the limit was “arbitrary” and is setting the poultry industry back in the global marketplace, according to NBC News. The Obama administration had rejected the request to speed up inspection lines, however, because it would increase the risk of food contamination and endanger the plant employees.
Republican lawmakers, as well as the chicken industry, are citing President Donald Trump’s calls for deregulation in their attempt to speed up poultry inspection lines. Increasing the birds-per-minute limit is an effort to “reduce regulatory burdens on the industry” and also help the plants expand production to meet the rising demand for chicken, according to NBC News.
NBC News says that poultry workers are much more likely to develop work related illnesses and suffer serious injuries as private industry workers. The current line speed is already “extremely unsafe,” according to Debbie Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project. Workers have to use sharp tools to make forceful motions at high speeds in order to eviscerate animal carcasses. Tyson Foods and JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, two poultry processing plants, are among the top ten companies with the highest reports of work-related amputations and hospitalizations.
Under the current system, plant workers are the first to identify and remove unsafe carcasses from the line. Worker advocacy groups state that plant workers can only inspect the carcasses so fast, and speeding up the line can jeopardize their ability to safely and accurately examine the chickens.
USDA has opened up the issue to public comment for 60 days.