About Hormel & HIMP
Hormel is one of the top pork producers in the US, best known as the makers of SPAM. The company is based in Minnesota, just down the street from Quality Pork Processors (QPP), the pig slaughter plant where our investigator worked while wearing a hidden camera to document the miseries forced upon pigs during the last few moments of their lives. QPP is an exclusive Hormel supplier.
Although the company makes claims like, “For more than 120 years, Hormel Foods has focused on treating animals humanely, simply because it’s the right thing to do,” this is not the first time that a COK investigation has uncovered inhumane treatment of animals at a facility associated with Hormel. See our video inside a pig breeding factory farm in Iowa.
COK’s new exposé uncovers more of Hormel’s hidden horrors: high-speed slaughter hell.
What is HIMP?
For starters, HIMP is an acronym (within an acronym) that stands for “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Based Inspection Models Project.”
It’s a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program, created over 10 years ago, that supposedly aims to “yield improved food-safety and other benefits to consumers.” In practice, what this program does is reduce the number of government-trained inspectors at slaughter plants. It shifts much of the inspection and food safety control measures into the hands of the slaughter plants, and allows facilities to run slaughter lines at higher speeds than other plants where full government inspection is still taking place.
There are currently five pig slaughter facilities operating under this USDA high-speed, reduced-inspection pilot program. Quality Pork Processors in one of them—and Hormel is associated two of the other four.
HIMP was officially launched over 10 years ago, yet the USDA has not yet thoroughly reviewed the program to determine its efficacy and safety. It’s expected that the USDA will announce its findings in early 2016—and it may decide to expand this dangerous program to hundreds of other USDA-inspected pig slaughter plants nationwide. This program is so dangerous that several USDA whistleblowers have spoken out against it—and a government Audit Report (see below) echoes these concerns.
By transferring many of the inspection responsibilities from trained government employees to the companies themselves, the protection of consumers, workers, and animals are put at risk. There is a fundamental flaw in expecting companies with a financial interest in processing as many animals as possible as quickly as possible to adequately police themselves.
In 2013, an Audit Report issued by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) underscored many of these very serious concerns. The report notes the inadequate oversight of the USDA’s inspection arm, “FSIS”, the Food Safety and Inspection Service. According to the report:
“Since FSIS did not provide adequate oversight, HIMP plants may have a higher potential for food safety risks.”
“Although HIMP was intended to improve food safety, we found that 3 of the 10 plants cited with the most NRs [Non-compliance reports] from FY 2008 to 2011 were HIMP plants. In fact, the swine plant with the most NRs during this timeframe was a HIMP plant — with nearly 50 percent more NRs than the plant with the next highest number.”
In conclusion, “[T]he swine HIMP program has shown no measurable improvement to the inspection process; the program was not studied during its first 15 years; three of five HIMP plants had some of the highest numbers of NRs nationwide; and one plant was allowed to forgo an essential food safety procedure.”