Government Might Let Big Chicken Inspect Its Own Poo-Covered Poultry

Federal food safety inspectors already have so much to do, why not just hand over the job of watching birds go down an assembly line to factory employees? What could possibly go wrong? A whole lot, say opponents of a current proposal by the Agriculture Department to allow private companies take over inspections at poultry plants.

Some in the agency say such a program would pose a health risk by allowing contaminated meat to reach customers, reports the New York Times. Currently, service inspectors from the Food Safety and Inspection Service are stationed on the line to examine birds for blemishes, feces or visible defects before they go on to be processed and ultimately, delivered up for your consumption at the grocery store.

As for what these newly-freed inspectors would be doing instead, the proposal would send them to spend more time “evaluating the plant’s bacteria-testing and other safety programs.”

There are those within the agency who don’t approve, however, as they say it would put consumers at risk for diseases caused by salmonella.

Apparently this pilot program has already been run in 20 plants since 1998, and it’s already had problems. According to affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, several inspectors at those pilot program plants report being put at the end of the line, making it impossible for them to spot bad birds.

They also reported many incidents of poultry plant employees letting birds with poo or “other substances” pass by, and if the inspectors tried to remove them, they were yelled at.

Of course, Big Chicken is all about this idea.

“The proposed rule is the logical next step in the modernization of poultry inspection,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council in Washington.

We’re going to go ahead and cross our chicken nugget-loving fingers that this thing doesn’t happen. Or possibly just stay away from poultry altogether, for fear of feces.

Plan to Let Poultry Plants Inspect Birds Is Criticized [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. winstonthorne says:

    “There is shit in the meat.” – Bruce Willis in Fast Food Nation

  2. MutantMonkey says:

    I’m not much of a chef, but a question; so long as you wash the meat and cook at a proper temperature and clean any surfaces the meat touched, including hands, isn’t this a non-issue?

    • hmburgers says:

      I’ll serve you up a washed, 180* turd… non-issue?

    • Lt. Coke says:

      Yes. The fact that you weren’t sure proves that this meat inspection is necessary. How many more people aren’t completely sure how to properly handle potentially contaminated meat? How many will die of stupid illnesses because the free market prefers profit over their lives?

    • soj4life says:

      Think of it this way. If you opened up a package of chicken and it was full of blemishes and was spotted with feces, would you cook it, let alone eat it?

  3. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Thank gawd I live near a chicken farm. I go, pick out my chicken I want to bring home with me, & they take care all of the dirty work & wah-lah, I drive away happy with a carcass in my trunk.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      ” I drive away happy with a carcass in my trunk.”

      …If I had a dollar for every time I heard that…

    • samonela says:

      Did you mean “voila”?

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        No, I think the poster meant wah-lah. Lots of people say that. It obviously does stem from the term voila. Many words we say, and many regional terms come from other words changed in a small way.

  4. markvii says:

    Gives new meaning to the old saying about the fox watching the chicken house

    • Fumanchu says:

      I would actually put it as the chicken watching the fox house. Not only would the chicken not do anything it would be the chicken’s best interest to not even bother watching.

  5. Cat says:

    I don’t take coupons from big chickens. Not after last time.

    • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

      Y2K… What are selling, chicken or sex jelly?

      • Cat says:

        Oh my god! They’re eating Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa!

        That’s crazy…they’ll just be hungry again in an hour.

  6. Tim says:

    Here, fox. Watch the hen house, please.

  7. Fumanchu says:

    While I am typically a fan on deregulation and less government, it seems like increasing funding to the AD would be the better choice here. The government has functions of which it is actually supposed to perform and insuring general public health via food oversight is one of them.

  8. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    “So, what do you do for a living?”
    “I’m a chicken looker.”

    • Fumanchu says:

      One of the best things about the “great recession” is that the response to what do you do as living is “I do whatever job thats not illegal” is valid and no longer shunned because its blue collar or not salaried or whatever. Finally its perceived that having a job (any job) is better than not having one. Where in the 90’s it felt like it was better to have turned down the burger flipping job becuase it was beneath you.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Had a pal worked part-time in a chicken processing plant de-boning chickens. When people asked what he did, he said, “I bone chickens” and couldn’t understand why people laughed at this untilI we clued him in.

  9. NightSteel says:

    Insert jokes about foxes guarding the henhouse.

    Except of course that people dying from tainted food really isn’t funny.

    Self-regulation is a joke. It doesn’t matter who or where or why. Food processors, toymakers, law enforcers–anyone who is allowed to police themselves will inevitably fall into lax enforcement. The only question is, how long will it take? Will it happen immediately after the government stops looking over their shoulders to ensure the ‘pilot program’ is working as intended?

    How can anyone possibly think it’s a good idea to make a company responsible for lowering its own profits? It’s ludicrous.

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    “Government Might Let Big Chicken Inspect Its Own Poo-Covered Poultry”

    The DEA also announced today that they will allow the drug cartels to monitor and assure the purity of the drugs they sell.

    • Fumanchu says:

      They do that already, as drugs are an illegal substance the government has no grounds on which to try and enforce purity or effectiveness. Its actually one of the main argumetns for the legalization of drugs. if you legalized them you could make sure they weren’t being cut with bleach and other really bad chemicals.

  11. MECmouse says:

    They have to free up more agents to round up the terrorists who are growing their own vegetables and milking their own cows, people!

  12. hmburgers says:

    Or, as a society we could, you know, not slaughter billions of caged defenseless animals and then consume them… I’m just saying…

    It’s pretty clear that dogs & cats have emotions and feelings… so why do we feel like chickens, cows, goats, etc, are “lesser” animals? It’s just an ignorance thing… or being a bastard thing… we assert our dominance all over this planet in a multitude of ways… the wholesale killing of billions of animals just because we have “chicken nugget-loving fingers”.

    • dwtomek says:

      Because they are tasty. Dogs probably are too, but they lucked out by not being so god awful creatures as cows and chickens. If you think those creatures are not awful, you probably haven’t spent much time around them.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I like chickens. I think they are nice, but I’ve also raised them (free-range) and they shit out tasty eggs and are delicious of themselves. Yes, I gently carried them to their little chickenhouse when they mistakenly roosted in the wrong spot. And yes, I also ate them. Just because I eat them doesn’t mean I treated them poorly.

        If I had the space I would rather raise my own meat, to avoid the cruelty and filth. But I can’t right now.

    • framitz says:

      Humans are omnivores, we eat both plant and animal. Just look at our teeth, it is obvious.
      Would you rather everyone went out and hunted all the animals to extinction to survive?
      While I don’t eat that much meat, I can’t imagine the entire planet going vegan.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Look at our teeth? How about you look at a gorilla’s teeth? Their “canines” are far larger and scarier than ours, yet they are vegetarians. Tiny, not very sharp points on four teeth are not proof that people should eat meat. Those teeth help us tear many kinds of food, not just meat, especially back in earlier times before highly processed food that you barely have to chew.

        I am not a vegetarian and very much enjoy eating meat on occasion, but I’m not sure that we were “meant” to eat meat. I’ve never seen a really convincing argument that proves that we were meant to eat meat. All-in-all, meat is pretty hard on our bodies causing heart disease, strokes, high cholesterol, etc… In carnivorous animals, meat doesn’t cause these issues. There is also the fact that we have to cook our meat to make it palatable, digestible, and to kill bacteria. That is not the case with other carnivorous and omnivorous animals.

        I think that just because we like to eat animals and many of us choose to do so, doesn’t mean we were biologically meant to eat it, especially since, health wise, if we eat a balanced diet our bodies are actually better off physically without it. Same goes for cow’s milk.

    • samonela says:

      I’m a vegetarian.

      And I disapprove of this message.

    • bgeek says:

      Pigs are far smarter than chickens, but I love bacon.

    • Talmonis says:

      Nobody cares what vegans think. Thanks.

  13. dwtomek says:

    Don’t worry the free market will sort this out. Once their customers are dead they won’t be able to buy any more chicken from the bad producers and those producers will go out of business. Done and done. No need for oversight.

  14. Slader says:

    Words that should raise a red flag: “There are those within the agency who don’t approve.” Okay, who are they, what is their position, and what possible self-interest could they have in maintaining the status-quo?

  15. framitz says:

    Letting employees inspect would not be much worse than the government inspectors.
    The government inspectors don’t pay attention most of the time any way. I’ve been to a slaughter house and seen it first hand.

    Try rotating government inspectors between sites and see if that helps.

  16. CubeRat says:

    Wash the chicken, prep with seasonings, cook thoroughly.

    Salmonella and E-coli are both killed if the meat is cooked properly, so I’m not too worried about this.

    Lent is over on Saturday, woo hoo, I get to have meat again!!!!!

  17. dush says:

    Why isn’t there a thorough washing and then a zapper decontamination ray/field that all the meat goes through to completely cleanse it? Is this the 21st century or not?

  18. oldwiz65 says:

    Excellent idea. Allow the companies to do it. dumb. And how many cases of Salmonella will show up afterwards and how many people will die?

  19. LorgSkyegon says:

    I didn’t know the government inspectors had microscope vision that allowed them to see the bacteria on the chickens. Any kind of inspector is stupid. Use cobalt irradiation on each bird and the problem will be solved easier

    • Promethean Sky says:

      The problem with that is that people are both stupid and ignorant, and fly into a panic at the mention of radiation.

      I should do it myself. A pox on the NRC. Who are they to tell me that I can’t keep a few curies of radium in my fridge.

  20. Otto44 says:

    yes of course… “self regulation”. Because we have the best possible outcomes, when the “gubment” is out of the way and lets an unfettered industry lie, collude, and pretend it’s being responsible to the millions of consumers who fund its very existence.

  21. Sarek says:

    Great idea! There’s too much regulation preventing business from creating jobs.

    But we can do more. Let’s also allow landlords to do their own fire inspections, manufacturers to do their own OSHA inspections, and toy companies to do their own toy safety inspections. Win-win for everyone (except the public, of course.)

  22. Galium says:

    Now all we need is a law that states that the consumer can not sue us for bad meat; and we will be sitting on top of the nest, said Tom Super. /s

  23. Yomiko says:

    As for what these newly-freed inspectors would be doing instead, the proposal would send them to spend more time “evaluating the plant’s bacteria-testing and other safety programs.”

    This sounds like they would be relying on doing more HACCP audits to try to improve safety. HACCP documentation, frankly, is easy to pencil-whip. They don’t check that you’re following you plan, they just check that you have a plan and have documentation saying you followed it. Big difference. Bad difference.

    • Firethorn says:

      What I keep running into is the question:
      “What problem is this regulation trying to solve?”.

      Now, I want safe food. The company wants profit. As long as I(or my heirs/estate) retains the ability to sue them for unsafe food, they want to sell me safe food, as unsafe food isn’t profitable.

      Yes, we get the occasional incident now, but I wonder if an adjsutment of the inspection process might not make for safer food at a lower price.