Reuters – Tyson Foods plans in January to replace more than a dozen federal inspectors at a large Kansas beef plant with company employees, after getting a U.S. government waiver.
Tyson said the changes would improve food safety and efficiency, though some activists are worried they could result in less oversight.
The country’s highest-selling meat supplier asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in March 2019 for a waiver from inspection requirements at its plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Other companies have made similar changes at chicken and pork plants.
The USDA granted the waiver in March 2020, allowing Tyson workers instead of government inspectors to check cattle carcasses for blood clots, bruises or signs of disease before the animals are butchered, company executives said.
The pandemic delayed the changes, but Tyson will now hire 15 people per shift to check carcasses, said the company, which worked with Iowa State University to develop training materials for workers.
The number of USDA inspectors at the plant will drop to nine per shift from 17, the agency said in a statement to Reuters.
Tyson aims to eventually use cameras and computer imaging to evaluate the carcasses, said Jennifer Williams, vice-president of food safety.
Activists said the inspection changes were a move to deregulate the industry.
“It’s really problematic,” said Zach Corrigan, a Food & Water Watch senior staff attorney.