The National Chicken Council (NCC) released the following statement in response to a petition filed on December 17 by Farm Sanctuary and the Animal Welfare Institute requesting that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) amend its regulations under the Poultry Products Inspection Act to regulate practices and actions that they claim result in adulterated poultry products. Attributable to Tom Super, NCC vice president of communications:
“NCC member companies take animal welfare very seriously and invest significant resources into ensuring chickens are healthy and well-cared for throughout raising and processing. It is not only the right thing to do ethically; there is an economic incentive to do so.
“FSIS inspectors and plant personnel continuously monitor activities in slaughter establishments ensuring that humane slaughter practices are followed. The whole process is routinely audited both internally and by independent third parties.
“This petition is the latest attempt by activist groups to use the federal rulemaking process to sidestep court decisions that have been ruled against them. In fact, just today, a federal judge threw out a PETA case, saying USDA has discretion in enforcement of animal-specific regulations.
“FSIS has guidelines and directives setting humane slaughter requirements under the Poultry Products Inspection Act. To the extent the extreme, exceedingly rare, and likely exaggerated examples of employee misbehavior cited in the petition actually occur, they likely violate existing FSIS regulations.
“The Poultry Products Inspection Act does not grant FSIS authority to regulate issues that do not affect food safety,wholesomeness or labeling; and, contrary to its allegations, nowhere in this petition is there a genuine link between the humane handling of chicken and food safety.
“The petition cites 421 violations of FSIS’s good commercial practices over the 18-month period from January 2011-June 2012, out of the approximately 12.8 billion chickens harvested during that period. That amounts to just 0.000003 percent (3 millionths of 1 percent) of all chickens harvested during that period. FSIS regulations and industry efforts are clearly working, and duplicative regulations that possibly exceed the Poultry Product Inspection Act authority are not necessary.
“But the industry is working every day to get those figures as close to zero as possible. In fact, the National Chicken Council’s Animal Welfare Guidelines for Broilers will be updated this year to help achieve that goal. The guidelines cover every phase of the chicken’s life and offer science-based recommendations for humane treatment.