New Report Confirms Dangerous Conditions Persist in Meat and Poultry Plants

October 22, 2012


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Claire Leslie, 612-624-8543, cleslie@MidwestHumanRights.org
Barb Frey, 612-626-1879, freyx001@umn.edu
Omaid Zabih, 605-310-4060, ozabih@neappleseed.org

Chicago and Minneapolis – A new report from a coalition of more than 50 Midwest human rights organizations confirms that dangerous conditions persist for food and worker safety in meat and poultry processing plants. The report summarizes in-depth interviews with meat and poultry workers in 6 focus groups in 5 sites across 2 states, Iowa and Minnesota.  

“The title of the report, which comes directly from a worker’s comments, says it all. Modern meat and poultry processing simply goes beyond the capacity of human beings’ bodies,” said Barb Frey, Co-Convener of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (Midwest Coalition or Coalition). “It’s not good for food safety or worker safety, and it violates the basic human rights of workers.”

“Always Working Beyond the Capacity of Our Bodies: Meat and Poultry Processing Work Conditions and Human Rights in the Midwest” is a report based on in-depth focus group interviews with workers in rural Minnesota and Iowa communities. It documents a number of significant concerns about safety and other work conditions in meatpacking and poultry plants. Most notably, workers linked serious injuries to the rapid speed of the production line. Workers also described being exposed on a regular basis to dangerous chemicals on the factory floor. Finally workers reported facing discrimination and abuse from supervisors.

“Over the past decade and more, numerous reports have documented serious safety concerns in meat and poultry processing,” said Omaid Zabih of Nebraska Appleseed, a member organization of the Midwest Coalition. “This report - based on in-depth conversations with workers from 6 focus groups in 5 sites across 2 states - confirms that serious safety issues continue to be a problem for people who work in this industry.”

In its policy recommendations, the report notes that a current proposal by the USDA seeks to further increase line speed in poultry processing, threatening food and worker safety. The new rule would give inspectors only ⅓ of a second to inspect each bird for fecal contamination, bile, diseases, tumors, feathers, and other defects. The Coalition encourages community members to ask their members of Congress to stop the new USDA poultry rule (go to http://neappleseed.org/workers). 

See also this short summary of the report highlighting workers’ comments and descriptions.

The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights is a network of 56 organizations dedicated to promoting a strong regional voice on domestic and international human rights issues.

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