Questionable Meat Alert

USDA tracks 120,000 lbs of mystery meat from AISD back to "inhumane" California packing firm.

Attention meat lovers: If you don’t know where your meat is coming from, chances are it may be the product of an operation like Chino, CA-based Hallmark Meat Packing Co., which was recently shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when a long-term undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States revealed widespread mistreatment of “downed” cows, or those too sick or injured to walk. Among other things, the investigation produced video of workers kicking cows, ramming them with forklift blades, jabbing them in the eyes, applying electrical shocks, and blasting them with a hose to force them to walk to slaughter.

The USDA announced Tuesday evening that it would shut down Hallmark’s operations. USDA Undersecretary Richard Raymond cited “egregious violations of humane handling regulations.” Hallmark, which slaughtered about 500 cows a day (mostly “spent” dairy cows), supplies the Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses and markets the meat. Westland in turn supplied major fast food restaurants, as well as the USDA itself, for programs like the National School Lunch Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program, according to the HSUS.

Texas received nearly 4.7 million pounds of Westland beef through the USDA in 2007, second only to California. Of that total, 120,000 pounds of meat were shipped to Austin.

The Austin Independent School District is among the institutions that received Westland beef. AISD representatives say the district has on-hand supplies of Westland beef – provided by the USDA and not purchased directly by the district – but that the meat never made it to students’ plates.

The HSUS is calling for immediate revisions to USDA regulations to require humane euthanasia of all downed cattle, as well as the passage of two pending bills, the Downed Animal Protection Act, which would ban any slaughtering of downed animals for human consumption, and the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act, which would set modest animal welfare standards for producers who sell food to federal government programs.

Check out the Humane Society website for more info, including video footage.

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Animal Welfare, Hallmark Meat Packing, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Humane Society of the United States, Westland Meat Co.

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