Company president: Meat plant retrained workers

Southern Quality MeatsThe president of a Pontotoc slaughterhouse said his company has increased efforts to comply with all laws and regulations since first being notified of allegations of animal cruelty at its facility.

B. Don Haynie Sr., president of Southern Quality Meats said in a written statement Friday that the company took the actions after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a written complaint on May 23.
A company investigation showed no evidence of the allegations, he said, until a third party provided a copy of the video on Tuesday.

But the company updated its policies and retrained employees on animal handling procedures, Haynie said.

“Although the majority of the video depicts correct stunning procedures, the video depicts two instances in which an animal was not rendered unconscious on the first stun,” Haynie said, adding that the two errant uses of the stun device were contrary to established company procedures and that the employee in question left the company for unrelated reasons.

In addition to the retraining, Haynie said, SQM has installed a restraining system to make the stunning process more sure.

“SQM takes very seriously its compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations and intends to fully cooperate with USDA and state personnel regarding this matter.”

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service agents visited the plant Wednesday. While results of the inspection have not been publicly released, Haynie said one of its findings was that the company’s policies and procedures “meet the criteria for being a written, robust, systematic approach for humane handling.”

PETA spokesman Dan Paden issued a statement saying that cameras should be installed at the company and randomly monitored by a third party.

“A whistleblower told us that slaughterhouse employees behave much differently when they suspected that government inspectors were present,” Paden said.

errol.castens@journalinc.com