American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle is calling for more training and third-party random checks of producers and handlers — focused on the cattle and dairy industries. This came out ahead of a Senate committee hearing related to the Hallmark/Westland animal handling case.

"We are calling upon the industry to take a leadership role in enrolling all cattle producers and all dairy farmers in (industry-developed) quality assurance programs," according to Boyle. He believes the programs also should face random third-party audits. He wants actual performance to be measured against those guidelines.

Boyle outlined a series of failures that led to Halmark/Westland's historic 143-million-pound beef product recall, and suggested that in the future:

  • Livestock brokers and dealers should be required to document training for employees in proper animal handling and transport.
  • Animal-handling audits should be performed on farms and in transit.
  • Processing facility employees should be certified for proficiency in animal-handling procedures.
  • Plants should use AMI's animal-handling guidelines and audit program.
  • USDA should require every inspector performing ante-mortem inspection be certified for proficiency in animal handling and have a thorough knowledge of the Humane Slaughter Act.
    Boyle did not call for more Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors at plants, but says AMI has supported past FSIS requests for more resources.

He echoed USDA, congressional and industry outrage that the Humane Society of the United States waited nearly four months to notify USDA about the animal abuse. He also suggested USDA would have been better advised to conduct a risk assessment before recalling millions of pounds of beef that the agency admits has little to no threat to consumers. All product that the plant produced for the National School Lunch program tested negative for pathogens
Source: American Meat Institute,