Nat'l Chicken Council Wants to Increase Poultry Slaughterhouse Speeds; Comment Period Open

Photo: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

Increased Poultry Line Speeds

Current regulation sets a maximum speed at which the plants that slaughter, butcher and package poultry can operate. This rate is also known as a plant's "line speed" and is based on how many birds can be processed per minute. The National Chicken Council recently sent a petition to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asking for a waiver of these line speed limits.

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Most poultry plants currently operate at a line speed of 140 birds per minute, but a number of facilities have been participating in a trial program of 175 birds per minute. Opponents of the petition say these speeds are already too fast and result in a higher rate of injury for the people who work in these factories.

The waiver would eliminate line speed limits for participating plants, allowing individual facilities to determine their own line speeds "provided they maintain process control."

The National Chicken Council  claims that, "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."

Opposition to Line Speed Increases

Opposition to the line speed increase has come from groups concerned about the health and safety of both poultry workers and consumers. In addition, animal welfare groups say that the requested waiver would increase the likelihood of inhumane handling, which in turn would increase the risk that birds would "be bruised or die other than by slaughter" and result in an adulterated product.

Last year, the Government Accountability Organization also flagged concerns about worker health and safety and line speeds, writing that "High line speeds resulting from increased automation and other factors may exacerbate hazards... (and) affect the risk of both musculoskeletal disorders and injuries among workers."

How You Can Comment

The FSIS is taking public comments until December 13th, so now is the time to weigh in on a potentially significant change in the conditions faced by food chain workers and animals.

What Else Can you do About Poultry Line Speeds?