Speedy Slaughter Lines Aren’t Just Horrible for Animals—They’re Terrible for the Environment

Slaughterhouse lines in America already move at breakneck speed—and we mean that all too literally. Many chicken slaughterhouses nationwide strive to kill up to 140 birds per minute, more than two lives taken per second. And yet, in the name of profit, the National Chicken Council (NCC) wants slaughter lines to move even faster. NCC’s recent petition to the USDA aims to create a loophole that would enable some chicken slaughterhouses to kill as many birds per minute as they’d like.

Fortunately, by spending just a minute of your time to voice your disapproval on the USDA's comment portal, you could help spare the lives of millions of birds—and protect our environment, which also stands to suffer immensely if the NCC proposal goes through.

Faster line speeds mean, of course, more birds slaughtered every minute. But to create the extra “supply,” either existing grow-out barns will need to cram more chickens into each "batch" or more barns will need to be built. Either way, more chickens means more manure-laden litter, more water wastage, more feed usage, and more pollution of rural communities that host factory farms.


Indeed, the USDA’s own analysis acknowledges the environmental damage:
It takes an average of seven gallons of water to process each bird. The southeastern part of the United States is struggling to meet the water needs of its residents, and water costs are at a premium. In 2005, some poultry processing plants in the South had to cut back on the number of birds they processed because water was not available.
The Environmental Protection Agency found that chicken slaughter plants can use more than nine gallons of water per bird and generate more wastewater per live-weight pound than even cattle and pig slaughterhouses.

The USDA is considering NCC’s dangerous petition, but contrary to its duty under the law, the agency has not undertaken any analysis of the proposal’s potential environmental impact.

Even more devastating is what’s at stake for these innocent animals. To achieve the currently permitted speed of 140 birds per minute, workers must grab live chickens from their transport crates and shackle them upside down by their feet at a furious pace. Chickens often suffer broken legs and other mishandling and abuse in the workers’ haste.

According to the USDA’s own inspection records, this pace leads some chickens to miss the kill blade altogether, have their legs or wings cut off by the beheading machine while fully conscious, and even be scalded to death in tanks of hot water. Workers get hurt as well; in fact, the injury rate for poultry slaughter workers is six times higher than the average for all U.S. industries.

We are not powerless to stop this. The USDA has invited public comment on the NCC petition. Mercy For Animals, joined by The Humane Society of the United States, submitted a second comment today urging the USDA to deny the petition right away. Our first joint comment focused on the animal welfare and worker safety problems posed by the NCC proposal. Today’s comment alerts the USDA to the environmental havoc threatened by speeding up chicken slaughter.

It’s crucial that you also comment on NCC’s petition on the USDA's comment portal. If you’re not sure what to say, we suggest this: 
I oppose the National Chicken Council’s petition to create a large loophole in poultry slaughter line speed limits. Increasing poultry slaughter line speeds would cause even more cruelty to chickens, increase worker injuries, and create unnecessary food safety risks. This petition does nothing for citizens and is only about increasing the profits for a $90 billion industry. You must reject the National Chicken Council’s petition immediately.
Of course, the best way to prevent animal suffering is to leave animals off your plate. Together, we can one day eliminate slaughter lines altogether.