Rule Modernizes Pork Slaughter Facilities

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The Department of Agriculture wants to modernize pork slaughter facility inspections. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is in charge of keeping our food safe. They, with the hog industry, want to improve the system of inspection.

It's called the HACCP-Based Models Project (HIMP).

FSIS inspectors have to inspect every carcass that goes by. The rule change proposal in HIMP would allow some slaughter facilities to have employees ease inspector responsibilities. Under HIMP and overseen by FSIS employees, facility workers could sort and remove animals unfit for slaughter as well as trim and identify defects on carcasses and parts before the FSIS inspection. FSIS employees still have the responsibility to inspect all carcasses and parts and only they can condemn those carcasses and parts as per the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

CEO of the National Pork Producers council, Neil Dierks says employees take over simple roles, "The roles that, what I call, more mundane. That can be addressed by plant facility personnel are conducted by them, again, with FSIS still being in charge of everything and using it more as a management of the process to ensure that, you know, we're providing a safe, healthy, nutritious, wholesome product."

That would also free up inspector time, letting them have a better look at the facility as a whole.

FSIS has been working on this hog project for five years, with five pork packing plants participating. Leading to a proposed rule that allows other pork packing plants to use this system. If it passes, processors can choose to adopt.

FSIS has been studying this process on hogs and poultry for nearly 20 years, determining that it improves food safety and other consumer protections.

Dierks says, "If FSIS isn't happy, ain't nobody happy. Because it's a situation where they have ultimate control and if they close a plant? They close a plant. So, the motivation by the processors is very high to make sure a good job's being done."

Dierks says this also can increase the throughput to a certain degree, not by a large amount, but the hog industry right now is making more hogs than can be slaughtered. Any efficiency upgrade could help stop those market hog delays.



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