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American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle Tells House Committee That Careful Oversight and Inspection of Meat Industry Creates Transparent Relationship With Public

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A level of regulatory oversight and inspection unparalleled by any other industry in America makes the U.S. meat industry among the most transparent because knowledgeable inspectors act as the eyes of the public and generate public records, according to AMI President J. Patrick Boyle who testified today before the House Oversight Committee’s Domestic Policy Subcommittee.

“It is important to step back and recognize that the meat industry is an industry unlike any other in the United States. We process live animals into wholesome meat products and we do it under the continuous oversight of federal inspectors who are in our plants during every minute of operation. No other industry besides the meat, poultry and egg industries operate in this fashion,” Boyle told the subcommittee.

“In some respects our industry is among the most transparent in the United States. While our walls are not transparent, federal inspectors function as the eyes and ears of the public. Records generated by these inspectors are public documents and accessible to media, policymakers and consumers,” he added.

Visitors are permitted in plants under controlled circumstances, according to Boyle. However, when visitors are permitted, the industry’s primary concerns are bio-security, food safety, worker safety and animal welfare. Controlling access is essential to preventing the introduction of contagious animal diseases. “We don’t place restrictions on visitors to be difficult. We do it to protect livestock, our employees, the meat supply and in turn the American public,” he said.

Boyle addressed the issue of the role that cameras may play in meat plants, noting that many members use internal surveillance to monitor a host of factors, from food safety to animal welfare. Some have found them extremely valuable and some plants contract with outside firms to conduct remotely the American Meat Institute’s animal welfare audit written by Dr. Temple Grandin. But he stressed that the use of cameras should remain an individual company decision.

Boyle acknowledged that some have called for streaming video feeds to the internet where the public may view the video. “I cannot help but see the irony in that suggestion. Why should the most regulated and inspected industry whose legions of federal inspectors act as a proxy for the American public be compelled to broadcast its business to the world?,” he asked. “For those who believe this idea has merit, I say why stop there? Why not hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, restaurant kitchens, auto plants and operating rooms?”

In his testimony, Boyle reminded the committee that today, only ten percent of Americans live in rural areas and only two percent of Americans live on farms. A member of the public with no knowledge of livestock or meat production would have no frame of reference in viewing and evaluating what we do in our plants. “They would be as qualified to make a judgment as I would be if I were asked to critique an open heart surgery,” he said.

“Indeed, I’m not worried about the public seeing something “wrong” in our plants. I am worried about an untrained eye seeing something right and misunderstanding it because of their lack of exposure to animal agriculture,” he said.

Boyle acknowledged that the undercover video from a Chino, California plant has left a lasting imprint in the minds of those who viewed it. He announced that AMI was launching a new on-line video channel called Meat News Network where accurate videos – including some that represent typical conditions in meat plants --will be posted.

“We are launching this You Tube Channel with a three-part video that features Dr. Temple Grandin and other members of our Animal Welfare Committee. We will soon add new videos on other timely topics so that we can enhance our relationship with the 95 percent of Americans who enjoy our products.”

To view the new You Tube Channel, go to: http://www.YouTube.com/meatnewsnetwork

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