THE Catelli Brothers Inc. veal and lamb processing plant in Shrewsbury, N.J., was cleared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) to reopen after the agency approved the company's corrective actions Feb. 3.
Last month, FSIS withdrew its federal inspectors from the New Jersey facility after investigating a complaint alleging that the company had violated the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (Feedstuffs, Feb. 3).
Catelli Brothers president and chief executive officer Tony Catelli said in a statement, "We are pleased that USDA has approved our corrective actions and that we are able to reopen our plant. We were very deliberate in taking the time to ensure that our actions are robust and that they will continue to exceed expectations for animal care and humane food production practices."
Within 24 hours of receiving the verbal notice of suspension from FSIS, Catelli Brothers brought in third-party animal handling experts, including a certified trainer, to assist the plant. The company then responded with an outline of corrective actions based on recommendations from the experts, which included a certified trainer from the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO).
"Two nationally recognized, third-party experts in humane animal handling have made specific recommendations that we have already begun to incorporate. In addition, a PACCO-certified trainer has retrained all of our employees," Catelli said.
The company's revised animal handling policy includes installing new animal stunning equipment, conducting more employee training and eliminating the movement of non-ambulatory animals.
Catelli explained, "Additional steps we are taking include reaffirming our policy against the processing of non-ambulatory animals, increased quality assurance audits of both animal welfare practices and of the harvest process itself, retraining on humane handling practices and specific disciplinary measures for employees who violated those practices and retraining all company transportation partners on Catelli animal handling and proper transportation procedures."
Furthermore, Catelli Brothers will install remote video surveillance equipment in the live animal handling area that will be monitored by a third party.
"Catelli Brothers will be the first veal plant in the country to install Arrowsight, a 24/7, third-party remote video surveillance and auditing of animal handling and processing procedures," he added.
In regard to the practice of slaughtering non-ambulatory, disabled calves, 72 members of Congress sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week after the FSIS regulatory action at the Catelli Brothers plant.
The letter requests FSIS to make a rule change in federal regulations to "close a loophole" that allows the processing of non-ambulatory calves.
In a statement, Vilsack said USDA is currently completing the necessary steps to send a proposed rule on non-ambulatory calves to the Office of Management & Budget.