I spoke with Dr. Temple Grandin, the noted animal welfare expert who recently went to Postville and inspected AgriProcessors (Rubashkin). What follows is a summary of that interview:
- Dr. Grandin said the plant would now be able to pass audits. Cattle prods were used on fewer than 25% of cattle, and there were few vocalizations.
- She saw approximately 50 head of cattle slaughtered. All were allowed to bleed out and become insensate before being hung on the rail and dressed.
- She also saw the yard and the new building.
- Dr. Grandin only reviewed the slaughter. She did not inspect chicken growing facilities and other operations, like the Gordon plant, owned by Rubashkin.
- She will only be able to get to the plant once or twice per year, because the travel time (especially air connections) make this a three day trip.
The Truly Outrageous
I asked her about this quote from Rubashkin spokesperson Mike Thomas:
"Dr. Grandin has been to AgriProcessors before; she consulted with AgriProcessors shortly after the plant opened in 1989. We had been asking her to consult with us again for a number of years, and three months ago we were finally able to settle on a date."
"That's not true!" Dr. Grandin said forcefully. "That's ridiculous!" Dr. Grandin said her first post-PETA-revelations contact from Rubashkin was three months ago, about the time subpoenas were issued in the Justice Department's anti-trust probe and as the Forward was working its worker abuse story. (This confirms what I wrote here.)
I asked her why it took three months for her to go in? She said the problem was the travel time (as noted above). She also confirmed that she and noted kosher and food processing expert Joe Regenstein had offered just after the PETA video broke to go to Postville for free to help Rubashkin get the plant in order. Rubashkin never called her.
The Most Important Message
Dr. Grandin said, "I told the Forward, and this is very important, that they have to learn to keep their process good so they don't slip back."
She also told me she believes all of Rubashkin's customers, from the smallest kosher butcher shop up to the largest chain of supermarkets, should be allowed free, unannounced access to the plant to make sure that standards now achieved are held to.
Subpoenas And Worker Abuse
I asked Dr. Grandin if she was aware of the price fixing and collusion charges and the subpoenas issued by the US Department of Justice before visiting the plant. She said she was not, and was only marginally aware of the allegations of worker abuse. She was clearly troubled by the timing of her visit, and what that implied.