"Downer" Cattle Banned from Slaughter


In mid-March 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published in the Federal Register a final rule to amend the federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of cattle that become non-ambulatory disabled after passing initial inspection by Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspection program personnel.

The final rule amends the federal meat inspection regulations to require that all cattle that are non-ambulatory disabled, commonly called “downer,” cattle at any time prior to slaughter at an official establishment, including those that become non-ambulatory disabled after passing ante-mortem inspection, be condemned and properly disposed of according to FSIS regulations. Additionally, the final rule requires that establishments notify inspection program personnel when cattle become non-ambulatory disabled after passing the ante-mortem, or pre-slaughter, inspection. The rule is intended to enhance consumer confidence in the food supply and improve the humane handling of cattle following the January 2008 events at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company that highlighted a vulnerability in FSIS’s inspection system and disclosed instances where cattle had been inhumanely handled.

Under the final rule, cattle that become non-ambulatory disabled from an acute injury after ante-mortem inspection will no longer be eligible to proceed to slaughter as “U.S. Suspects.” Instead, FSIS inspectors will tag these cattle as “U.S. Condemned” and prohibit these cattle from proceeding to slaughter. These cattle now must be humanely euthanized.

In July 2007, FSIS published a final rule allowing a case-by-case re-inspection of cattle that became non-ambulatory disabled after ante-mortem inspection to address the rare situations in which an animal that is deemed by FSIS as fit for human food at ante-mortem inspection subsequently suffers an acute injury.


April 2009 RENDER | back