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Slaughterhouse Gets Approval To Reopen

Mon, 08/27/2012 - 9:47am

HANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Officials at a California slaughterhouse shut down because of cruelty and food safety allegations said it has been given federal permission to reopen.

Central Valley Meat Co. announced Sunday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the Hanford plant's action plan and gave the OK to for workers to return on Monday.

"The USDA informed us that it has accepted our action plan and we are free to reopen," the company said in a statement on Sunday. "Central Valley Meat will resume operations Monday morning and welcome our employees back to work."

A telephone voice recording tells employees to report for work at 9 a.m. The plant employs about 450 people, the Fresno Bee reported.

In a statement released Monday, the USDA confirmed that its Food Safety and Inspection Service concluded its evaluation of the slaughterhouse's plan.

"As of this morning (Central Valley Meat) will be allowed to resume processing," the statement said. "The company has committed to a number of corrective actions including additional humane handling training for employees and safeguards to ensure that only ambulatory animals are processed."

The USDA suspended Central Valley Meat operations last week after an undercover video released by Washington, D.C.-based Compassion Over Killing, an animal welfare group, showed cows that appeared to be sick or lame being beaten, kicked, shot and shocked in an attempt to get them to walk to slaughter.

Central Valley Meat Co. primarily slaughters dairy cows that have lost their value as milk producers. The video and the shutdown prompted the USDA, McDonald's Corp. and In-N-Out Burger to suspend or cancel contracts with the company.

Last year, the USDA bought 21 million pounds of beef for more than $50 million from the company owned by Lawrence and Brian Coelho.

On Thursday, three Central California congressmen asked the federal government to reopen the slaughterhouse, citing the region's high unemployment.

Republican lawmakers Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham signed a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stating that shutting the plant will do nothing to further the goal of responding to the alleged animal abuse.

The GOP trio also asked Vilsack to intervene against "attacks that are occurring at the behest of radical groups."

The letter from the congressmen also noted that the USDA had inspectors onsite while the video was made.

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