In response to erroneous reports in the news and (mostly) on social media, the National Pork Producers Council is reminding pork producers and consumers that federal meat inspectors are working in meat packing plants despite the government shutdown.
NPPC – and other livestock groups – a year ago urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to deem as essential USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors. Without inspections, pointed out NPPC in a Jan. 19, 2018, letter to the secretary, “meat and poultry processing plants are prohibited by law from operating.”
“NPPC and U.S. livestock and poultry farmers are very grateful for the dedication and professionalism shown by FSIS inspectors during what we know are difficult times with this government shutdown,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Ohio. “These inspectors are performing a job that ensures for American consumers the safety of our food supply.”
Had inspectors not been deemed essential – and been furloughed – U.S. packing plants and the 500,000 workers they employee would have been idled, causing significant disruptions throughout the meat supply chain, from livestock producers unable to market their animals to grocery stores unable to stock the meat case.
Also continuing to operate during the shutdown are USDA Market News Service staff who produce the twice-daily livestock mandatory price reports, which are the sole source of market information on sales to packers of cattle, hogs and lambs and on the subsequent sale of meat products. As he did for FSIS inspectors, Perdue made Market News Service employees essential.
“The mandatory price report is a critical tool used by livestock producers, packers and others when making marketing decisions,” Heimerl said. “It plays a central role in ensuring competition in the meat industry and in keeping the livestock industry vibrant.”