<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Tyson Recall - What Caused It??? 

I wasn't intending to post today, but a reader asked me about the current Tyson recall of 19,900 pounds of fully cooked frozen grilled chicken patties that may contain pieces of metal that was reported, according to the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

For anyone concerned about this, I have further info or you can click here to find it. They require you to register, though, so I would be glad to send you the article if you email me or I also posted the whole article at the Yahoo group. Just follow the link at the bottom of the page to go there.

Anyway, someone asked me how this could happen, so I decided to quickly touch base and answer that question this morning. I figure if one person wants to know, then there are probably others out there who do, too.

So, here it goes:

I know what some of the likely things that may have caused it, but it is difficult to explain in just a few sentences, and I wasn't there at that plant for this situation, so I could be wrong. That said...

Usually this results from metal shavings building up on the rail. This is what guides the line along its path through the plant. It's caused by little wheels that are on the chain that run along this rail. These wheels are what hold the chain and shackle up. Because of the high humidity and the water getting splashed on them constantly, they freeze up and, instead of rolling, they slide back and forth - metal on metal. It creates shavings. This can happen anywhere in the plant. Now, although this can happen while the plant is running, it can also often be as a result of the failure of the maintenance people to service the line properly. Each one of these little wheels has a bearing in it. And, as any mechanically-inclined person knows, bearings have to be greased - regularly, especially if they get wet. Maintenance doesn't have time to grease each and every one of these little wheels, so instead, they just wait until a bunch of them go out, then replace them. But, when those little metal wheels go out, they leave little metal shavings. The wheels slide back and forth along the rail until they wear out, grinding off, with the little metal shavings falling off onto the chickens below. Then, when those high pressure water sprayers try to wash them off, them embed them instead, thus escaping notice until it is too late and someone finds them in their food. I have often wondered how many tiny ones are never seen at all...

These shavings are very sharp on the edges. They can be anywhere from too small to be seen with the naked eye to as big as the chips thrown out by a chainsaw. They can be any size in between those extremes, but it is usually only the smallest that get away undetected. Eating them and getting them in your stomach must be excruciatingly painful. I can't imagine how horrible that would be, especially for some little kid somewhere. This happens a lot, but is usually caught before it ever leaves the plant. QC (Quality Control) is supposed to catch this because the inspectors are at the head of the line. Unfortunately this time, that wasn't the case.

Usually when these are caught by the QC people, even when the condemned chicken carcasses were so full of metal to glimmer in the light, they are ground up for animal food. I am wondering what they did with this meat...

This usually becomes a more common occurrence when the plant volume increases, often within weeks before a holiday. This is because Tyson will try to elevate production to make up for the time the employees will be off of work for the holidays. So, people are pushed to do more in the same amount of time. Tyson has a concept called "product per man-hour." What they do is they figure out exactly how many pounds of meat are produced per hour paid. In other words, say, we produced 100 lbs. of meat, and it took x number of people y number of hours to produce that product. They try to figure out how to arrange things so that they can get a higher amount of production in the same amount of time, thereby making it more profitable and making up for the lost production hours.

What they are doing is, trying to figure out - over a length of time - how to get the lost production added in without working more hours and paying overtime to workers. This ends up leading to usually speeding up the line and pushing up production, so more mistakes get made. Things get left undone that should be done in order to keep the line going properly.

They elevate the "production per man-hour." The employees do the same amount of work they would have done if they would have worked the holiday, but as it is squeezed into already hard shifts, they are essentially working the same amount, but not getting paid for it. There is a lost day of production, but no lost "production per man-hour." Dangerous to public safety? Yes. Exploiting the workers? You bet. More cruelty to the chickens? Most assuredly. You do the math.

Greed=speed. And more speed=more mistakes.

And, yes, this is just one more reason to question the safety of any factory farm products, but especially those from Tyson. I saw too much to EVER be convinced of the safety of their products. Hopefully, many more people will begin to realize that as well before it kills them...Or their kids...
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