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In-N-Out cuts ties with shuttered beef supplier over animal rights video

August 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
In-N-Out Burger is cutting all ties with a slaughterhouse in the Central California town of Hanford. The facility has been temporarily shut down by federal regulators after a video surfaced showing the apparent mistreatment of cows.

There is no indication any of the cows slaughtered at Central Valley Meat Company were diseased. The USDA has not ordered a recall from the plant, but it is investigating if any diseased animals have entered the food supply.

Federal investigators say the graphic video taken by animal rights group Compassion Over Killing shows "egregious and inhumane handling of livestock" that directly impacts the popular hamburger chain. In-N-Out says 20 to 30 percent of the beef it uses comes from Central Valley Meat Co.

"What our investigator documented shows cows who could not get up, who could not walk to the slaughter line and they are being excessively poked, prodded, jabbed," said Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing.

Under federal law, cows unable to walk on their own are considered potential food safety risks and should not be eaten by humans.

"Animals that are not ambulatory may have a disease," said Dr. Belinda Thompson of Cornell University. "There was concern in this country that mad cow disease may escape detection."

Central Valley Meat said they are confident the concerns pose no food safety issues despite In-N-Out canceling its contract with the company.

In a statement, the company's chief operating officer said the burger chain would "never condone the inhumane treatment of animals, and, in fact, all of our suppliers must agree to abide by our strict standards for humane treatment of cattle."

Central Valley Meat also supplies the USDA's school lunch program. The company currently holds a $3.8 million, two-month contract with the government. It's unclear what will happen to that.

The president of Central Valley Meat, Brian Coelho, said he's surprised by the allegations because USDA investigators are constantly at the plant.

"We take these allegations seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can," Coelho said.


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