WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating a Hormel Foods slaughterhouse after the release of an undercover video purportedly showing workers dragging and beating pigs as they are being taken to slaughter and gutting some when they were still alive.
The animal rights group Compassion Over Killing released the video allegedly taken at Quality Pork Processors Inc. plant in Austin, Minn., a third-party distributer for Hormel and its Spam product. The group accused workers of treating pigs poorly to keep up with high-speed production, a violation of federal humane-handling rules that may affect food safety.
"The actions depicted in the video under review are completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video's authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action," the USDA said.
A spokesman for Quality Pork Processors disputed the conclusions reached by Compassion Over Killing. The company watched 97 minutes of footage provided by the group and found one instance in which a plant worker incorrectly used a paddle on a pig. The employee was verbally disciplined.
"We were disappointed to see that it appears an employee may not have followed company policy," said Nate Jansen, the company's vice president of human resources.
The Washington-based Compassion Over Killing said the video was taken by an employee with a hidden camera over a five-month period. Quality Pork Processors works under a USDA pilot program that allows for high-speed slaughtering and fewer government food inspectors.
Warning: The undercover video contains graphic images: