February 1, 2018

USDA Rejects National Chicken Council Petition for Faster Slaughter

ASPCA volunteer holding a chicken

Following massive public outcry, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a petition by the National Chicken Council (NCC), the poultry industry’s lobbying arm, to slaughter chickens even faster than currently permitted by federal law. These birds are currently slaughtered at breakneck speeds—up to 140 birds every minute—causing countless birds to suffer from botched slaughter, rough handling and, in some cases, being boiled alive in tanks of scalding water. Faster slaughter would have meant even more of these horrific cruelties. 

Late last year, the ASPCA helped lead a large coalition of animal welfare, consumer protection and worker safety organizations urging the USDA to reject this dangerous and inhumane proposal. We want to thank the tens of thousands of you responded to our calls for action and submitted passionate comments to the USDA. In total, the USDA received over 100,000 comments from members of the public. 

In the end, the USDA declined the petition on the grounds that the NCC did not provide evidence that slaughter plants would maintain food-safety process controls. In fact, recent data indicates higher salmonella rates, on average, in chicken slaughter plants employing faster speeds. 

While this is great news, we're not out of the woods yet. Although they rejected the NCC’s petition, the USDA has put in place a new process to allow individual slaughter plants, like those run by Tyson, Perdue and Sanderson Farms, to circumvent the cap on slaughter speed—and the USDA refuses to tell the public which chicken companies have applied to kill chickens faster. This is another example of the USDA protecting Big Ag at the expense of animal welfare and humane-minded consumers, who have a right to know which companies are trying to circumvent the law.

The ASPCA will remain vigilant and fight this new loophole in the system: the USDA and sneaky, cruel poultry companies should be held accountable. But today, we ask for your help protecting pigs from a similar threat. The USDA recently proposed eliminating slaughter-line speed limits for pigs, and these vulnerable animals need your voice: Please leave a comment for the USDA urging the agency to reject this inhumane proposal.