Success: USDA Drops Deadly Plan to Speed Up Chicken Processing

Chicken Processing

Target: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

Goal: Celebrate the USDA’s decision to drop a proposal that would have increased the number of chickens boiled alive.

After a shocking proposal to increase the speed of chicken processing lines, the USDA came under intense pressure from organizations and citizens opposed to the plan. Many chickens are boiled alive each year because line workers, struggling to keep up with the pace of processing machinery, are unable to slit their throats prior to boiling. The USDA’s proposal would have further sped up chicken processing, leading to an increased number of chickens being boiled alive, as well as other adverse effects on workers and food quality. Understandably, the community found this proposal unacceptable and raised its voice in protest.

In addition to animal rights groups, civil rights groups such as the NAACP became involved, as the increased speeds would lead to unfair work conditions, and the majority of line workers are African American and Latino. Food safety groups argued that increased line speeds could lead to potentially disastrous mistakes, such as increased instances of fecal matter and disease in processed meat. Many citizen petitions, including one from ForceChange, also made the rounds, adding community voices to the outcry.

After receiving torrents of input from these and other groups, the USDA completely dropped the proposal to increase line speeds. Celebrate successful community and organizational action against government policies that would increase the already devastating amount of animal cruelty endured to serve America’s food industry, and praise the USDA for listening to the outcry and dropping the proposal. Though a small step, may it lead the USDA toward broader assessment of and action against cruelty in the meat processing industry.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

Following the proposal to increase line processing speeds in chicken processing plants, you heard from many voices. Civil rights groups, animal rights organizations, food safety groups, and citizens spoke out against this proposal, voicing legitimate concerns that enacting the proposal would lead to negative effects. We thank you for hearing these voices and dropping the plan.

Though a small step in the right direction, the halting of an action that would exponentially increase cruelty to animals is nonetheless to be commended. We, the undersigned, thank you for putting a stop to this deadly plan, and express our hope that a broad assessment of the meat industry’s cruelty to animals and unfair treatment of its workers is forthcoming.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: USDA

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  1. Kae Blecha, OTR says:

    The USDA only does its job when the public outcry is deafening. Why speed up the line in the first place? Dumb idea when more and more people are becoming vegetarian.

  2. Kathy Khoshfahm says:

    Tom – While I feel that the USDA’s decision not to speed up chicken processing lines was the right one, the reason for which the decision was made was not. The suffering of animals on today’s factory farms is almost beyond belief, and this should have been the basis for your decision, rather than potential increased instances of fecal matter and disease in processed meat. Today more than ever, the USDA has allowed the almighty dollar to dictate policies and procedures that are detrimental to the animals whose welfare you were hired to protect…

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