USDA Meat Inspection and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act


Publication Date: February 2008

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Author(s): Geoffrey S. Becker

Research Area: Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Revelations in early 2008 that cattle were mistreated at a California slaughter plant have raised questions about enforcement of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (7 U.S.C. §§ 1901 et seq.), which is intended to ensure that animals are handled humanely when being killed for food. Evidence emerged that the plant had permitted nonambulatory or so-called “downer” cattle to be slaughtered for human food, also potentially jeopardizing public health. Following these revelations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) effectively halted plant operations, announced the largest meat recall ever, alerted school food authorities to hold and destroy any unconsumed products from the plant, and launched an investigation into the matter. The 110th Congress also has stepped in, with hearings planned and proposals to change current policies possible.