Two additional pork processing plants have been granted USDA approval this summer to participate in the New Swine Inspection System "time-limited trial," which will enable establishments to experiment with different ergonomics, automation and crewing to develop work environments that ensure both food and worker safety while increasing productivity.
During the trial, Swift Pork Company in Beardstown, Illinois and Tyson Fresh Meats in Madison, Nebraska will be permitted to operate at an increased line speed for a period of up to one year during which time they will collect data that measures the impact of line speed on workers.
In April 2021, the U.S. District Court of Minnesota issued a decision in United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local No. 663 v. U.S. Department of Agriculture which essentially threw out the elimination of line speed limits codified in a 2019 rule under the Trump administration because USDA did not adequately consider the impacts of the increased slaughter speeds on worker safety. As a result, all NSIS establishments are currently required to operate at line speeds that do not exceed 1,106 head per hour.
In November, the Food Safety Inspection Service, in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, announced the development of a time-limited trial. To participate, an NSIS establishment must implement worker safety measures included in an agreement with the workers' union or worker safety committee that represents their employees.
According to FSIS, three swine slaughter plants have requested to convert to the NSIS system and nine have already converted.