Health Impact News Editor Comments:

Besides the obvious food safety concerns expressed by Ken Ward below, there is quite possibly a far greater risk here in this new USDA plan to privatize poultry inspection. This rule change may exclude small pastured poultry producers from being able to comply and market their products.

Currently, it is very difficult for small-scale poultry producers to find processors that have a USDA inspector present when processing chicken. Several states do not have a single USDA certified processing plant available for smaller producers to process their high end free-range and pastured organic chickens. This is due to the fact that the large factory poultry operations, who do all of their processing in-house, have driven most other processing plants out of business.

Under current regulations, chicken processed without a USDA inspector present has a very limited market. Most farmers who are not growing factory birds sold to the main poultry operations that control all the chicken sold in the U.S., but instead raise pastured chickens outdoors that they market directly to health-conscious consumers, have to process their birds on their farm, due to the lack of processing facilities. In all states, there are limits as to how many chickens you are allowed to process on your farm, and the restrictions on selling those chickens vary greatly from state to state. Some states only allow one to sell these chickens on the farm where they were processed, which often is very far away from urban areas where most of the farmer’s customers would be.

In order to ship high quality chickens directly to customers in another state (as Tropical Traditions currently does through their Grass-fed line of meats produced by small family farms in Wisconsin), the FDA requires that the chickens have to be processed in a facility with a USDA inspector present. There are very few of these left in the United States, and if this new rule that USDA is proposing goes through, even those that are present will probably be eliminated. No one will be able to order chicken over the Internet anymore, greatly restricting your current food choices if you do not want to order factory chickens, and do not live close enough to a farm to drive somewhere to purchase a chicken raised outdoors on pasture.

Given this USDA plan, and the recent FDA plans for egg laying birds that would effectively eliminate eggs from pastured chickens, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a concerted effort to squeeze free range and pastured poultry farmers out of the market in favor of factory birds? Factory chickens make up a multi-billion dollar industry that often gets its way with government officials, as was seen recently in Maryland where they convinced the government to delay action at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay from chicken manure run-off because it would have hurt their sales too much.

Stop the USDA’s plan for unsafe chicken

Hi, I’m Ken. I want to tell you about the USDA’s outrageous plan to fleece consumers by handing over our food safety to the very corporations that produce our food.

I can tell you first-hand what a bad idea this is: I’m a retired USDA poultry inspector, with 30 years of experience on the packing house floors, and I was directly involved with this project from the very beginning. From what I’ve seen, this new inspection system is more like a “no inspection” system.

It’s very simple. Who do you want inspecting the poultry that you eat? Trained USDA employees? Or the companies that run factory farms?

When I was an inspector, we went bird by bird to assure that plants were producing clean, wholesome products. But that won’t be the case if this plan goes forward! I worked with the pilot phase of this plan to privatize the inspection of our poultry, but it could soon be approved for broader use… and it turns the “inspection” of our food into a sham.

Privatizing inspection means shifting the actual hands-on inspection of the birds from highly trained, taxpayer-funded, unbiased, Federal employees to plant employees who have no requirement of any training at all — and in doing so, the USDA had to change the name of these employees to ‘sorters’ in lieu of inspectors, because what they’re doing is not inspection.

The USDA needs to hear from you. Tell them that privatizing our food safety is unacceptable!

It is a sad state of affairs when our government is more concerned about saving money than it is about people’s health, but that’s what we’ve got here: a money-saving system that makes it impossible to do adequate inspection of our poultry. A properly trained inspector utilizes ALL of their senses to make a decision about the wholesomeness of the bird. I have no idea of how checking carcasses flying by at unregulated speeds of 3 per second, without any authority to touch, turn or do anything else, can be called “inspection.”

To put it simply, if this plan is approved, there would effectively be no inspection of our poultry. That means no one to make sure that the chicken we eat isn’t contaminated with dirt, feces, or… well, you get the idea. I’ll spare you the gross details.

The USDA should be getting the message about what a bad idea this is. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have had serious food safety problems tied to their privatized meat inspection programs. And just this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office put out a report that strongly condemned the pilot project being used to justify the plan. But the USDA needs to hear from consumers like you, too. Tell the USDA that privatized poultry inspection is like no inspection at all — and that’s not okay.

As a 30-year veteran in the fight of assuring food safety, and now as a consumer who relies on those unbiased federal inspectors to be my eyes, nose and hands in making sure I get wholesome chicken to eat, I’m urging the USDA not to implement this “no inspection” system — and I hope you will, too.

Join me in speaking out for safe food:

Thanks for taking action,

Ken Ward, Retired USDA Poultry Inspector

Ken Ward
Retired USDA Poultry Inspector

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