The US Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday that nine pork plants will be allowed to apply to operate faster processing-line speeds under a one-year trial following a federal judge in March striking down a rule that removed line speed limits, Reuters has reported.
The program aims to prove that faster slaughtering could help meat companies boost production at a time of strong demand and high bacon prices.
Companies including WH Group’s Smithfield Foods, JBS USA, and Hormel Foods Cop are eligible to apply for the trial program because they were previously able to accelerate processing under the earlier rule.
America’s largest union for meatpacking workers, The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, said the program will create a mechanism to collect data that shows how to protect workers and promote food safety.
In the pilot program, plants will implement worker safety measures under agreements with labour unions or worker safety committees, the USDA said.
Plants will collect data on how line speeds affect workers and share it with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the USDA said. The data could be used to make future rules for the industry.
The North American Meat Institute, an industry group representing major meatpackers, said that meat companies welcomed the program as an “opportunity to restore lost production and help ease supply chain challenges but will need to examine further the specific requirements for participation.”