WASHINGTON – On Sept. 28, the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) added additional criteria regarding a poultry plant’s ability to operate at line speeds that exceed 140 birds per minute.

The agency stated that birds would be slaughtered in compliance with good commercial practices (GCPs) in consideration of a line speed waiver. Their notice went onto say that poultry should “be slaughtered in accordance with GCPs, in a manner that will result in thorough bleeding of the poultry carcass and will ensure that breathing has stopped before scalding.”

Also, 20 young chicken establishments currently in operation, and under line speed waivers, must meet the new criteria to remain eligible according to FSIS.

The updated criteria followed up on a  Sept. 1, 2017 petition by the National Chicken Council regarding waivers in line speed restrictions. 

In January 2018, The US Dept. of Agriculture denied a request from the National Chicken Council to lift a cap on line speeds at poultry processing companies.

FSIS first published criteria on Feb. 23. The agency then announced it would consider individual waiver requests from poultry plants processing young birds to allow them to operate at line speeds that exceed the limit of 140 birds per minute.

In August, four poultry processing companies submitted requests to FSIS to permit them to increase production line speeds up to 175 birds per minute, 12 opposing organizations sent joint letters urging the agency to reject the request. According to a July 31 National Employment Law Project (NELP) statement, the four companies submitting waiver requests included: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Gerber Poultry, Peco Foods and Ozark Mountain Poultry. 

The entire FSIS Federal Register notice for the criteria can be found here.