Meat & Livestock News

USDA’s FSIS Announces Extension for High-Speed Pork Processing Trial

Veterinarian at pig farm observing livestock and checking their health.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has recently extended the experimental phase for a select group of pork processing facilities operating under the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS). This extension is pivotal as it allows these plants to continue functioning without the constraints of standard line speed limits.

This development follows a legal directive issued in March 2021 by a District Court in Minnesota. The court’s order necessitated all facilities under the NSIS to operate at a capped line speed of 1,106 head per hour, effective from June 30, 2021.

This ruling was a significant shift from the USDA’s earlier NSIS framework, which had removed such limits, only to be subsequently rescinded by the court.

In the wake of this ruling, the FSIS, in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), initiated a time-limited trial (TLT) in November 2021. This trial involved six pork processing establishments spread across Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania.

These plants were granted permission to operate beyond the standard line speed limit, under the condition that they gather and report data to evaluate the effects of these increased speeds on the safety of their workers.

Upon evaluation of the trial data by an independent team of worker safety specialists, it was concluded that the data was inadequate for a definitive assessment of the impact of heightened line speeds on worker safety.

Consequently, the FSIS is now orchestrating a separate study to collect the necessary data for a comprehensive evaluation. The TLT has been prolonged for an additional 90 days to accommodate the planning of this new study.

During this extended period, the involved swine processing facilities are mandated to comply with specific requirements, including upholding the worker safety measures as stipulated in their agreements, as per the directives issued by the FSIS.