The Food Safety and Quality Service is seeking information from all interested members of the public on the need for modification of certain provisions relating to the humane handling of livestock contained in the Federal meat inspection regulations. The Agency has been requested to allow the withholding of water from cattle for a period of time not in excess of 24 hours when such withholding is specified in the sales contract. The Agency has also been requested to allow the withholding of water from animals which are to be slaughtered within 24 hours from the time they arrive at the slaughter establishment.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Food Safety and Quality Service
9 CFR Part 313
Humane Handling and Treatment of Livestock; Solicitation of Information
Friday, September 12, 1980
AGENCY: Food and Quality Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of solicitation of information.
SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Quality Service is seeking information from all interested members of the public on the need for modification of certain provisions relating to the humane handling of livestock contained in the Federal meat inspection regulations. The Agency has been requested to allow the withholding of water from cattle for a period of time not in excess of 24 hours when such withholding is specified in the sales contract. The Agency has also been requested to allow the withholding of water from animals which are to be slaughtered within 24 hours from the time they arrive at the slaughter establishment. Prior to deciding what, if anything, to propose with respect to these matters, the Agency will consider all comments in response to this notice.
DATE: Comments and information must be received on or before November 12, 1980.
ADDRESS: Written comments to: Regulations Coordination Division, Attn: Annie Johnson, Food Safety and Quality Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 2637, South Agriculture Building, Washington, D.C. 20250.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Dr. Gerald Snyder, Acting Director, Slaughter Inspection Standards and Procedures Division, Technical Services, Meat and Poultry Inspection Program, Food Safety and Quality Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250, (202) 447-3219.
Interested persons are invited to submit comments and information concerning this request. Written comments must be sent in duplicate to the Regulations Coordination Division. Comments should bear reference to the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register. All comments submitted pursuant to this notice will be made available for public inspection in the office of the Regulations Coordination Division during regular hours of business.
On November 30, 1979, the Food Safety and Quality Service published final regulations (44 FR 68809-68817) amending the Federal meat inspection regulations to adopt humane slaughtering and handling practices with respect to livestock in accordance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 (Pub. L. 95-445). During the development of those regulations, the Department considered comments suggesting that animals have feed and water available as soon as they arrive at the holding pens of the slaughter establishment. As finalized, the regulations require that water be made available in all holding pens and that feed also be provided in all holding pens if the animal is to be retained longer than 24 hours before slaughter. No comments were received suggesting that there be an option of withholding water from cattle for a period of time prior to slaughter.
Since the regulations were finalized, the Food Safety and Quality Service has received a petition from Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., requesting that cattle be allowed to be held at the slaughter establishment without water for up to 24 hours before slaughter when this is specified in a sales contract. The petition states that this is a common and traditional method used in the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter. Under such a contract, the cattle are consigned to and in the custody of the slaughterer, but do not become his property until after the contracted period without feed and water and subsequent weighing. After the weighing, the cattle are slaughtered or returned to pens and watered.
This type of contract selling is most often done by producers who sell cattle on the hot carcass weight. It is claimed that this contract gives the producer a reliable check on the slaughterer's yields and prices. It is intended to give the producer reliable information to monitor and improve his feeding practices and to increase his confidence that he is being treated fairly by the slaughterer.
The more common method of purchasing cattle involves weighing the animals at the time of sale and deducting a shrink allowance to arrive at the weight used to compute the purchase price. A producer may believe that the shrink allowance overstates the amount of weight his particular animals will lose and may prefer to sell them on actual weight after a shrink period.
Furthermore, the American Association of Meat Processors has requested that the present requirement for water in pens be changed to allow animals which are to be slaughtered within 24 hours to be withheld from water. It cites the difficulty of keeping pipes thawed in the winter and the maintenance of the drinking troughs and pipes. It claims that animals will not drink in strange surroundings unless they are extremely thirsty and, therefore, are not being mistreated if water is not immediately available.
There is a precedent for withholding feed and water from livestock for periods of up to 28 hours under The 28 Hour Law, 34 Stat. 607. This law was passed in 1906 and applies primarily to livestock transported by railroad. Under the terms of the law, it is prohibited to confine animals in cars, boats, or vessels for a period longer than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the same in a humane manner (see 45 U.S.C. 71). Furthermore, this requirement can be extended under certain conditions.
Before deciding whether to propose an amendment to permit the petitioned practices, the Administrator is requesting that interested parties present their views on these matters. These comments will assist the Department in determining whether the regulations promulgated under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act should be modified.
Done at Washington, D.C., on: September 5, 1980.
Donald L. Houston,
Administrator, Food Safety and Quality Service.