Slaughterhouse Closed and then Reopened in the Blink of a Lame Cow’s Eye

Thursday, February 20, 2014
(video frame: Compassion Over Killing)

When the Central Valley Meat Co., 30 miles from Fresno, was shut down for a week in August 2012 for barbaric treatment of animals that was caught on video, it promised to reopen with “a new industry standard for the handling of animals.”

It wasn’t clear whether the beleaguered Hanford company was adhering to those new standards when it was shut down indefinitely on Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for “unsanitary conditions” because there was no specific information immediately released about what triggered the action.

But by Wednesday the No. 3 provider of meat products to the federal school lunch program was back in business without much explanation, according to the Fresno Bee. No product recall was involved.

The federal government bought 21 million pounds of meat from the company in 2011 for school nutrition programs and after a brief suspension resumed its business relationship. McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Burger King and In-N-Out Burger were all major customers in 2012 when Compassion Over Killing (CVM), a nonprofit animal advocacy organization, made public videos surreptitiously shot by one of its members.

They showed sick and disabled cows being electroshocked, kicked and dragged to their death. Downed cows were shot in the head multiple times and left wiggling on the killing floor. Some were suffocated. Others were repeatedly stunned with electric prods, stabbed, sprayed with hot water and lifted by their tails if they couldn’t walk.

But because there was no definitive proof that the lame animals were slipped into the food supply, and Central Valley Meat officials promised to mend their ways, the company got away with a slap on the wrist.

Last September, the company recalled 58,000 pounds of meat headed for schools after the USDA warned that the food might have small pieces of plastic in it.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service did not immediately post a press release on its website concerning Monday’s closure, perhaps because it was too busy writing up an addendum to an earlier, gigantic recall from Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma. That recall is up to 8.7 million pounds of meat parts and Rancho has been shut down “because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection.”

Although the government resumed purchases of beef from Central Valley Meat, McDonald’s and In-N-Out Burger severed their ties to the Hanford company, according to the Modesto Bee. But that didn’t seem to damper the town’s enthusiasm for In-N-Out, or its for them. The chain opened a highly-anticipated outlet there on Wednesday.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Hanford's Valley Meat Co. Reopens after Fixing “Unsanitary Conditions” (by Robert Rodriguez, Fresno Bee)

USDA Closes Troubled Central Valley Slaughterhouse over Cleanliness (by David Pierson, Los Angeles Times)

Slaughterhouse Reopens although Shunned by Big Burger Joints and Schools (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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