Federal agencies Food Manufacturing

Survey finds majority of Americans oppose USDA proposal to eliminate pork-processing line speeds

Swine modernization
Photo: United States Department of Agriculture

Washington — More than 3 out of 5 Americans are against a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed rule to remove maximum line speeds in pork-processing plants, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of a coalition of employer and industry advocacy groups, including the National Employment Law Project and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Researchers surveyed 1,004 U.S. adults. Of those, 64% said they were against the proposal. Broken down, 71% of women and 57% of men expressed opposition to the prospective measure, as well as 70% of respondents living in the Midwest.

“The public, whom the Trump USDA is supposed to protect, is not fooled,” Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker health and safety program at NELP, tweeted July 25. “They understand – across all states and affiliations – that the only point of this cruel [regulation] is to line the pockets of a few big meat execs by sacrificing the health of workers, consumers and animal welfare.”

ASPCA Director of Regulatory Policy Ingrid Seggerman echoed that sentiment in a July 25 press release, calling the proposed rule “inherently reckless.”

The current maximum line speed at pork-processing facilities is 1,106 hogs per hour. In the proposed rule, published Feb. 1, USDA cites analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that, when compared with traditional plants, establishments operating under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Inspection Models Project – a 1990s pilot program that allowed lines to run faster than current limits – “demonstrated that they are capable of consistently producing safe, wholesome and unadulterated pork products.”


In its regulatory agenda for fall 2018, USDA listed April 2019 as a target date for publication of the final rule. However, on June 21 the agency’s Office of Inspector General stated its intent to investigate the effectiveness and integrity of USDA’s procedures for developing and advancing the proposal.

In response to concerns posed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), USDA Inspector Phyllis Fong wrote a letter addressed to Durbin and 15 fellow members of Congress, stating that OIG aims to determine whether USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service:

  • Complied with public transparency requirements under Executive Order 13563.
  • Adhered to USDA Data Quality Guidelines in developing the proposed rule.
  • Reached a reasonable determination about the reliability of the OSHA injury data used for the proposed rule.
  • Consulted with OSHA and NIOSH about the impact of the proposed regulation on workplace safety and health.
  • Made information about its preliminary analysis on worker safety clearly accessible to the public during the comment period.

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