Friends Fiduciary Submits Comment to USDA on Poultry Line Speeds

March 7th, 2018

This December, Friends Fiduciary and other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) sent a comment letter to the US Department of Agriculture asking it to reject the National Chicken Council (NCC) petition that would exempt chicken slaughter establishments from line speed requirements, using a waiver system.

Allowing processing plants to run their lines without speed limits will endanger workers, making an already hazardous workplace even more dangerous. Poultry workers are injured at more than five times the rate of other workers, and already make at least “20,000 forceful cuts a day” through rapid, repetitive motion. Increased injuries will also lead to increased worker compensation claims and worker absenteeism related to injury affecting company and investor profit. Additionally, OSHA citations show that workers are “denied breaks, including breaks to use the restroom, forcing some employees to wear diapers”, a situation which would worsen with increased line speed and poses risk of contamination. Risk of contamination also increases as inspectors are “forced to examine more than two [birds] per second”, and research shows that countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of contamination. Additionally, there is potential reputational risk to companies as more dangerous conditions are publicized, threatening the long-term sustainability of these companies in service of short-term profit.

Thankfully, the USDA heard from a variety of concerned stakeholders, and the National Chicken Council’s petition was recently denied. Friends Fiduciary is committed to continual articulation of the moral and business case for industry safeguards such as this. Quakers have a long history of promoting worker well-being and safety which we believe supports long term sustainability for companies, in turn leading to increased shareholder value.

Read the comment letter here.