Myth: Monitoring Of Animal Welfare In Meat Plants Is Inadequate


No other sector of animal agriculture has the level of oversight that the U.S. meat packing industry has. Under the Humane Slaughter Act 1, all livestock must be treated humanely. They must be given water at all times, given feed if they are held at a plant for an extended period and they must be handled in a way that minimizes stress. Federal veterinarians monitor animal handling continually and may take a variety of actions — including shutting a plant down — for violations.

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In addition, in the late 1990s, a thriving commercial auditing business evolved based upon standards written for the industry by animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D., professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Independent auditors evaluate plants for major retail grocery and restaurant chains according to Grandin’s standards to provide additional oversight. Failed audits can result in lost contracts.

Beyond federal and commercial compliance, extensive research has shown that humane handling of livestock creates better finished products. Rough handling can cause bruises that need to be trimmed. It also causes quality defects like pale, soft, watery pork and blood spots in beef. These are direct costs to meat companies.

Strong ethical, regulatory and economic incentives exist to handle animals humanely.

While there have been instances in which those handling livestock in plants and farms have failed to meet these standards, it is important to remember that these are the exceptions. The industry has a demonstrated commitment to animal welfare and data collected by Dr. Grandin has shown a sustained improvement over time in welfare indicators. 2

  1. Pub.L. 85-765, § 2, Aug. 27, 1958, 72 Stat. 862; Pub.L. 95-445, § 5(a), Oct. 10, 1978, 92 Stat. 1069.
  2. Vogel, K. and Grandin, T., 2009 Restaurant Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter Audits in Federally Inspected Beef and Pork Slaughter Plants in the U.S., 2009 (accessed July 27, 2010).