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House Democrats Call on USDA to Not Increase Line Speeds in Poultry Plants

June 29, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (June 29, 2017) Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today led House Democrats in writing to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking the agency to not propose a rule that would increase line speeds in poultry plants throughout the United States. Any attempt to increase line speeds to the industry-preferred 175 birds per minute (bpm), or roughly 3 birds per second, would have serious detrimental effects to food, worker, and animal safety.

“Without factoring in a potential increase to line speeds, the poultry industry is dangerous enough with the existing line speed. A combination of already break neck line speeds, use of knives and scissors when workers stand shoulder to shoulder, deafening noise levels, and slippery conditions all contribute to high levels of preventable work related injuries,” wrote the Members. “It is our hope that you will take these safety concerns seriously and reject the industry’s request to increase poultry plant line speeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has heard from the American public and the evidence is clear: any increase to line speeds would have serious negative consequences to the health of the workers who put food on America’s tables.”

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, poultry workers face unsafe work environments and steep injury rates at almost fifty-percent above the national average. Additionally, workers in poultry plants become ill at rates seven times higher than all other industries. Further, of all industries in the nation, the poultry industry has the twelfth highest number of work related amputations and hospitalizations—numbers higher than those seen in the saw mill industry and construction.

To date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not done its due diligence in evaluating the safety of existing poultry plant line speeds. For example, when publishing the New Poultry Inspection System final rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that poultry plants enrolled in the pilot program had average line speeds of 131 bpm—far below the 175 bpm currently being promoted for industry to adopt. Despite the 131 bpm line speed in the pilot program, the agency recognized the dangers of higher line speeds to workers and noted that more studies would be needed before any increases would be made.

The full letter is available here.