JBS USA’s Beardstown Pork facility has been cleared to speed up its production line as part of a pilot program led by the US Department of Agriculture.

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has begun a pilot program to increase line speeds in 2021. Companies participating in the test are obliged to implement occupational safety measures in consultation with trade unions or occupational safety committees.

Jennifer Tirey, general manager of Illinois Pork Producers, said: “We definitely want to see this on a permanent basis. This situation provides continuity to keep our supply chain up and running.”

He has sent multiple messages to local 431 officials about changes at the Beardstown facility, JBS and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, but has not received a response.


In November, USDA announced that it would conduct a limited study to gather data to share with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The test program is expected to guide future processing rules.

“As long as there is enough labor in Beardstown, JBS will be able to move more pigs through the mill every day. This means lower transportation costs and shorter distances as we don’t have to transport it to other facilities that may be far away,” Tyree said.

Trump-era rule changes allowed U.S. pork processors to speed up production lines, but the Biden administration said the 2019 decision didn’t adequately address worker safety.

Since the U.S. District Court for Minnesota issued his June 30, 2021 court order, the pork processor is limited to a maximum line speed of 1,106 pieces per hour.

Workers testify that higher line speeds increase the risk of knife sticks, repetitive strain injuries, knee, back, shoulder and neck injuries.

These maximum line speeds can be exceeded by participating in a test program. Some pork processors were processing up to 1,450 animals an hour before the court’s ruling.

The National Pork Producers Council ignored the court’s ruling, saying faster plants have been running for decades without putting workers at risk. Faster speeds are needed to “support much-needed pork processing capacity in the United States.”

Marc Perrone, president of the National Food and Commercial Workers Union, told the Des Moines Register last year that the Biden administration “is creating mechanisms to collect data that show how best to keep workers safe and promote food safety.”

According to the USDA, the testing phase will allow facilities to experiment with ergonomics, automation and staffing to create customized work environments that increase productivity while protecting food and worker safety.


Dermot Hayes, an economics professor at Iowa State University, told meetpoultry.com that his six plants, which are part of the program, increase the harvesting capacity of pigs by 3.6 percent. This means that the price of pigs that have been treated will increase by 6%.

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Source: My Journal Courier

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