Why didn’t I hear about major changes contained in government’s new meat-processing guidelines? Was I asleep at the wheel of the news bus? Did my Google Alert for “chicken processing” suddenly fail me? No, I was just distracted, as you most likely were. See, the new USDA guidelines dropped Sept. 28, which was the day after Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate. I think we can collectively forgive ourselves for missing the chicken news. But friends, it’s big chicken news.
The Washington Post has a thorough report on the United State Department Of Agriculture’s new meat-processing guidelines, which serve mainly to speed up the rate at which slaughterhouses can process chicken. Previously, a cap existed on how many chickens may be processed per minute: 140 birds. Under the new guidelines, companies may apply for a waiver to process up to 175 birds per minute. Some consumer and animal rights groups say the waivers will “open the floodgates” so that most of the nation’s 200 poultry processing plants will now work at this faster rate.
That is an astonishing number of chickens.
According to the USDA’s own Poultry Production And Value 2017 report, American farmers processed 8.91 billion broilers (chickens) in 2017, up 2 percent from the previous year. Divide that by 365 days, and that’s 24.4 million chickens processed per day. Which means if we’re talking about a jump from 140 to 175 birds a minute, a 25 percent increase, my rudimentary math says 30.5 million chickens would be processed each day, or 11.14 billion chickens annually. Think about it: Every day, the number of chickens equalling the entire human population of Texas is slaughtered every day. And then again tomorrow. And the day after that. Holy shit!
Those staggering numbers have been on the upswing, despite the fact that American meat consumption hasn’t kept up. The Wall Street Journal notes this leaves meat processors increasingly reliant on export markets—which are currently slumping thanks to retaliatory tariffs placed by China and Mexico. So what’s happening to all that chicken and other meats? They’re piling up in warehouses, to the tune of 2.5 billion pounds.
And given the USDA’s move to increase the rate of chicken production, those stockpiles of meat are likely to keep growing. Just pounds of chickens, stacking up, refrigerated—billions of them. Sorry for the nightmare fuel, guys.