Pork company announces more corrective actions over video

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 7:44 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota pork processor that's a major supplier to Hormel Foods said Friday that it has taken additional corrective measures in response to Hormel's concerns over actions depicted on an undercover video shot by an animal welfare group at an Austin slaughterhouse.

An employee shown paddling pigs has been disqualified from working in the livestock area of the plant, and two other employees were also disciplined for horseplay for throwing what appeared to be a blood clot or blood-soaked paper towel, said Nate Jansen, vice president of human resources and quality services at Quality Pork Processors. He declined to say what that discipline involved.

QPP also implemented additional corrective measures that Hormel demanded in a letter Thursday, Jansen said. They include retraining of all employees on proper animal handling and conduct, stepped-up video monitoring and surprise audits, stationing humane handling officers to observe all animal handling, and a confidential hotline for employees to report any actions that violate animal care standards.

"We've been working very closely with them to make sure we're meeting the high standards that they have for us," Jansen said in an interview.

Austin-based Hormel — the maker of Spam, Cure 81 ham, Black Label bacon and other products — said Friday that it was "extremely disappointed and concerned" about the "aggressive animal handling and employee insensitivity" shown on the video shot by an investigator for Compassion over Killing last month.

The Washington-based pro-vegetarian group released the video Wednesday, saying it showed workers taking "inhumane shortcuts that lead to extreme suffering" to keep the slaughter lines moving at high speeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said what it showed was "completely unacceptable" and that it was prepared to investigate further.

"Our Supplier Responsibility Principles are clear as to our expectations of our suppliers, and the behavior depicted in the undercover video is unacceptable," Hormel spokesman Rick Williamson said in a statement that Jansen said sounded similar to the letter that Hormel sent QPP.

QPP's president, Kelly Wadding, said in a statement that the company was "very disappointed" by the actions of what he termed a few employees.

"We want to assure Hormel Foods and all of its customers that we care about animal welfare, and are committed to taking steps that will bring about positive changes for the industry as a whole," Wadding said.

Jansen said QPP will report publicly on its progress in 30 days.