Friday, March 12, 2021

Politicians want limits on line speeds

Three politicians in Washington have introduced a bill that would once again limit line speeds in meat-packing plants.

The line speeds in poultry plants are a prime target of critics, yet at 170 birds per limit, they are far below at least one Canadian plant that runs at up to 225 birds a minute, according to Juan De Villena, food safety officer for Wayne Farms, sixth-largest poultry processor in the United States.

Villena told Meatingplace Magazine that he witnessed that line speed when he visited a Canadian plant.

In Congress, Representatives Rosa DeLauro , a Democrat from Connecticut,  Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and  Senator. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey,  reintroduced the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act that aims to suspend and prohibit the waivers the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted more than 20 plants to exceed the mandated limit of 170 birds per minute.

In January, USDA withdrew the Trump administration's proposed rule that would have allowed poultry processing plants to increase line speeds by 25 per cent.

DeLauro, in a statement, said faster line speeds prevent workers from practicing social distancing and complying with safety guidelines.

“Safety cannot be exchanged for high production. During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are safe while working at meat and poultry establishments,” said Thompson.

But Villena countered that statistics indicate that worker safety has steadily improved over more than a decade.