Chino meatpacker illegally processed sick cows, USDA finds

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A Chino meatpacker that was subject to government scrutiny more than a year ago is back in the news. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says federal regulators allege in a lawsuit that the plant processed diseased cows for four years.

The Westland/Hallmark Meat Company was a major supplier to the nation’s subsidized school lunch program. Early last year, the Humane Society of the United States circulated undercover video that showed workers at the company using a forklift to move cattle that were too sick to stand.

The resulting federal investigation, and a federal recall of 143 million pounds of beef from the plant, led to renewed regulations against the processing of so-called “downer” cows for human consumption. It also forced the meat processor out of business.

The accusation that Westland/Hallmark may have used downer cows for several years, and hid that information from inspectors, surfaced in a lawsuit the federal Justice Department filed against the company earlier this year. The government seeks unspecified damages in the suit.