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Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
I witnessed through the years that also
contributed to my reluctance to eat any more
chicken ever again, especially from KFC.
When I worked up at the Waldron plant in '92
I saw a few rather unsettling things that made
me think twice about eating chicken. In order
to get to my work station I had to pass within
sight of the KFC and marinade lines, so being
a curious person, I looked around to see what
was going on. I watched them working as I
One time I saw this big Mexican guy. He was
deboning meat that goes into the meat marinade
cooker. I saw him reach down in the back of
his pants and scratch his butt - I mean really
digging at it. Then, he went right back to cutting
meat and throwing it on the belt to go straight
into the cooker for the marinade.
The USDA does allow 3 fecal episodes per hour
per line and there are two lines, for a total of 6
birds a hour allowed to have fecal matter on them.
That is, of course, what is on the outside, not
what might be on the inside from the guts busting
or a busted gall bladder. I wonder if this incident
was counted in those episodes. Probably not.
Twice, as I was walking by the KFC line (makes
the "bucket"chicken pieces) in that plant, there
was a guy coughing and sneezing on the meat.
He blew snot all over it and just kept on cutting
it up and dropping his pieces on the line.
It also wasn't uncommon to see someone drop
a piece of chicken on the floor and pick it back
and put it back on the conveyor belt.
You see, the way the KFC line worked was like
this: A chain with steel cones (they look like an
ice cream cone turned upside down) went by.
You had a guy called a "sitter" that put chickens
on the cones as they went by. Then we had
people down the line who had an assigned part
to cut off of each carcass. There was a small
conveyor belt that ran underneath the cones.
Each cutter cut off his/her assigned part and dropped
it onto that belt. The belt took the parts to the
battering machine, and from there to a quick-freeze.
After that, they were bagged up for shipping and
stored in the freezer until a truck came to get them.
Usually, Waldron plant put out two semi loads a day.
Everyone knows about the danger of blood-borne
pathogens in humans. In a slaughterhouse environ-
ment it becomes a particular worry, especially in
departments like evisceration line down at Grannis.
You have 70+ people in that department working
with sharp tools - knives, scissors, and I think
there are a couple of pairs of electric clippers used
for cutting off wing tips.
I knew of 4 different accidents on front-line (eviscer-
ation line) in which somebody got cut. Human blood
was found on chickens as far back as packing line.
I know people will say that chickens are washed
repeatedly as they go down the line. But, there are
different things in that plant that are carried from one
department to the other that are not washed. These
items, like hoses, "Jimmy" guns, stools, scissors, and
knives, are carried around and transfer the contamin-
ation back to the birds and get it on them. That is
how I think it happened that they still had it on them
on the packing line, where they should have been
clean and ready to ship. The fact of the matter remains
the same, no matter how it happened. The chickens
had human blood on them when they reached the box
packers. They saw the blood on them, luckily, before
they put the meat in the box.
We actually had a worker down there on front-line that
had AIDS. Nobody knows how long she had it before
everyone found out. We found out because her best
friend took her place on the line for just a minute while
she went to get a Band-Aid for her nicked finger. When
she came back she realized that her friend had also
nicked herself with the same pair of scissors, so she
'fessed up because she was afraid her best friend would
catch AIDS because of her. It would be a very real
possibility in that situation.
It worried me some. I really started looking hard at the
people I worked with in the killing room because, at the
time, we only had one knife for 3 people to kill with.
What we did was take turns. One would kill until 1st
break, another until 2nd break, etc. Of the other 2
people, one was a friend of mine and married, so not
too likely (but you never really know). The other guy
was a Mexican immigrant that I knew absolutely nothing
about. After that, I bought my own knife and forbid
anybody to use it.
Now, I know that there is now way I could actually
catch AIDS from the blood on a chicken. It would die
about as soon as it hit air, and certainly when it was
cooked. It is a purely psychological thing, but I just
don't like the thought of eating meat that has had a
human's blood on it. Not just for the disease thing,
but it just feels a bit cannibalistic, also. It's just an
uncomfortable thought with me. Maybe you don't care
much and say you wash it all off, but that is not
enough for me.
Besides, I saw that KFC didn't wash it off. I would
certainly never eat there. Butthole scrapings.