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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Activists Organizations and Unions Opposing Increased Line Speeds


In 2017 the USDA rejected a petition from the National Chicken Council to deregulate all line speeds.  The nominal rate of 140 birds per minute is however subject to waivers at the discretion of USDA-FSIS taking into account the level of mechanization, configuration of the hanging room and defeathering and evisceration equipment. Irrespective of speed, lines are split to allow USDA personnel to inspect carcasses.


The United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Public Citizen, an advocacy organization have filed lawsuit to deprive the USDA-FSIS of discretion in assigning waivers. Initial targets of UFCW action are five specified Tyson Foods plants and five Wayne Farms plants. Lobbying activity has resulted in a bill entitled “The Safe Line Speed and COVID-19 Act” co-sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH).


Senator Booker noted, “The USDA has now proposed to permanently increase line speed in poultry plants – an action that is both dangerous and irresponsible.” Neither Senator Booker nor Representative Fudge represent states with substantial broiler production and it is presumed that their concern in proposing restrictive legislation is a reaction to Union pressure. 

Senator Booker is intent on not only fixing line speed at 140 birds per minute but also wishes to eliminate the New Swine Inspection System and all discretionary waivers.


Disallowing appropriate requests for increased line speed will effectively raise the cost of production that will ultimately have to be passed on to consumers and shareholders of the integrators concerned.  Higher line speeds do not necessary increase the probability of injury.  The UFCW must realize that if forced by unrealistic labor regulations, processors will install a greater level of automation and robotics eliminating the need for many workers, to the determent of both unionized and non-union employees.

Copyright © 2020 Simon M. Shane