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Chino Beef Crisis Hits the SCV

Local school food distributor puts hold on meat from controversial slaughterhouse.

Posted: February 1, 2008 6:39 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2008 2:02 a.m.
A Valencia company that administers food distribution to 200 school districts across California, including Santa Clarita districts, has put a hold on all beef from the Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co. of Chino, after an undercover investigation revealed widespread animal cruelty and health violations.

Video evidence obtained through the Humane Society investigation shows mistreatment of "downed" dairy cows, who are too sick to walk, being forced onto their feet by workers using various methods including kicking, electrical shocks and even prodding them with the blades of a forklift.
"If the cows were down - and I saw the video and it looked like they were - then they were in violation of USDA standards," said Richard DeBurgh, president of D.J. Co-ops in Valencia. "I found out this morning from the USDA that they have put a hold on all of that beef."
State and federal regulations forbid the slaughter of cows that are unable to rise off of the ground, because "downed" cattle are more likely to carry foodborne illnesses.
DeBurgh said he immediately notified all of the school districts that his company serves and told them not to use the beef, and he also contacted all of his distributors who may have beef from the Chino plant and told them not to deliver it to the schools.
"Now we're just waiting for the state of California, through the USDA, to give us guidance as to what we're supposed to do with it," DeBurgh said.
While D.J. Co-ops distributes to the Santa Clarita Valley Food Services Agency, which supplies food items to local school districts, none of the beef went to Santa Clarita, DeBurgh said.
"Santa Clarita was not affected because they do not cook raw beef in their own facility," he said. "They buy already cooked hamburger patties."
DeBurgh has operated D.J. Co-ops for eight years. Before that, he worked in the school food services industry for 30 years. In addition to the risk to the public's health, DeBurgh said that treating animals the way they were treated in the video is inhumane.
"That video was very disturbing. The way they were treating those animals was inhumane," he said.
Steve Mendell, president of Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co., issued a statement stating that after watching the Humane Society video, management at the plant halted operations, fired two employees and suspended a supervisor.


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