September 17, 2014

USDA Bought Beef From Central Valley Meat for School Lunch Program

Records from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service show that the government bought more than 21 million pounds of beef from Central Valley Meat last year. The farm was shut down this week for inhumane treatment of cows. The beef was used in federal nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program, community food banks, and distribution on Indian reservations. Central Valley Meat slaughters older dairy cows which have lost value as producers of milk.

The disturbing video was shot undercover by Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit group dedicated to ending animal abuse, especially to animals in agriculture. The video shows cows vomiting from stress, unable to walk, being hoisted by ropes, and being repeatedly shot with bolt guns (cows must be killed with a single shot according to federal regulations). The animals are covered with dirt and feces. One animal was suffocated by a worker standing on its nose. Today, three Republican legislators asked the USDA to reopen the plant for economic reasons.

The USDA has said that, at this point in their investigation there is no evidence that the cows in the videos entered the nation’s food supply. But the investigation is ongoing. Downer cows are prohibited from entering the food chain over concern about BSE, or mad cow disease. But stressed animals can be more susceptible to disease, which is a food safety concern for humans.

So far, McDonald’s, Costco, and In-N-Out Burger have severed ties with this facility. McDonald’s said in a statement, “there are behaviors in the video which appear to be unacceptable and would not adhere to the standards we demand of our suppliers.” In 2009, Central Valley Meat was one of the top three suppliers to the National School Lunch Program. In fiscal year 2011, which ran from October 2010 to September 2011, the USDA bought 21.2 pounds of ground beef and boneless beef from Central Valley Meat. That totaled more than $50 million.

The USDA’s policy on audits and record keeping for facilities that participate in federal nutrition programs is that they are audited at least two times a year, based on performance. Central Valley Meats was audited on July 24, 2012, while the investigator from Compassion Over Killing was working at the plant.

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