On the heels of a USDA alert to pork processors that plants are to process no more than 1,106 hogs per hour, Seaboard Foods, one of the largest pork processors in the U.S., has requested a delay in implementing the rule.
The USDA alert followed guidance from a March 2021 Minnesota court ruling that overturned a provision of the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) that allowed pork processors to set their own maximum line speeds.
Seaboard Foods filed court documents asking for a 10-and-a-half month delay to adjust to the new ruling, after investing in machinery to run line speeds faster in accordance with NSIS guidelines.
Although the Minnesota ruling was made on March 31, the decision was stayed for 90 days to give processors and the Biden administration time to prepare. But with the end of June fast approaching, Seaboard says it doesn’t feel ready to make the switch. The processor currently requires its employees to slaughter between approximately 1,230 and 1,300 hogs per hour.
In the court papers, the company stated that reducing processing line speeds will create a backlog of animals, which could cause both animal health and environmental issues.
“Without a stay of the judgment for 10.5 months, Seaboard faces the loss of thousands upon thousands of animals without compensation,” the company said in court documents, adding that, during that time, the company’s production pipeline will produce approximately 126,000 more hogs than the company can slaughter under the new line speed limit.
Adam Pulver, the Public Citizen attorney who served as lead counsel in the Minnesota case, called Seaboard’s ask “absurdly long” and criticized the pork producer for not addressing worker safety in its court filings. A release by Public Citizen also noted that Seaboard had previously filed a declaration in the case, and waited too long to intervene.
USDA is currently reviewing Seaboard’s appeal for the delay.