QPP chimes in on animal cruelty claims
by Erica Shafer
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AUSTIN, Minn. -- Undercover video taken at the Quality Pork Processors facility in Austin, Minn. was released after the company had already taken steps to retrain some employees on proper animal handling procedures, said Nate Jansen, vice president of human resources and quality services for QPP. The company has been a third-party supplier of pork to Hormel Foods Corp. since 1989.
An investigator working for Compassion Over Killing took the video which the group has called “High-Speed Slaughter Hell at Hormel” in reference to QPP’s participation in the federal HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for swine. Compassion Over Killing blames higher line speeds for prompting animal abuse.
Jansen said QPP employees are subject to rigorous training under the company's animal welfare standards before assignment to the processing plant.
"We have managers, internal and external inspectors who monitor the animals the moment they arrive until they leave our facility -- including 24-7 video monitoring and outside third-party audits," he said.
In fact, the internal video audit enabled the company to identify and discipline the employee shown in the now-released video and give him documented training on proper animal handling procedures. Jansen stressed this occurred before QPP was made aware the undercover video existed.
"We looked at the edited 3-minute video and were disappointed that employees did not appear to follow company policy regarding paddle use," he noted. "We had already taken disciplinary action on this employee, and retraining."
Another employee was shown opening abcesses on the swine. Jansen said QPP has multiple steps in the harvesting process to ensure no contaminated products entered the food chain.
"That was a deliberate act against company policy," Jansen said of the worker's actions, "that our own supervisor had become aware of and addressed with that group. But we were unable to identify the specific person who was doing it at that time."
The company filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US Dept. of Agriculture to receive all video footage submitted to the agency by Compassion Over Killing. "As that information becomes available, will review that and take any appropriate actions necessary," Jansen said. The undercover investigator had taken hundreds of hours of footage at the processing plant during six months of employment at QPP. Jansen said QPP was able to identify the worker who stopped showing up for work.
However, after reviewing the edited video posted to YouTube and other unedited footage, Jansen said he has complete trust in the company's animal welfare and handling policies. As for the company's relationship with Hormel?
"I am expecting a response from Hormel...I'm sure that will involve some additional assurances that this is addressed," he said.