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Glass walls

By Holly Martin

Sometimes reality is not nearly as bad as what you imagine it to be. Such was the case on my first visit to a meat packing facility.

In my head, it was gruesome and bloody. But as I toured the plant, I soon realized that part of it was bloody but anything but gruesome. In fact, I was impressed with the humane process, the cleanliness and careful planning that went into the plant.

I've been in a meat processing facility many times in the 15 years since my first tour. With each tour, I see the advances made in little things that help improve the humane treatment of animals, among other things.

Most consumers do not have the chance to see these facilities firsthand. For a number of reasons including animal, personal and food safety, they have a limited number of tours. Consequently many believe the closed-door policy means the processors have something to hide.

I think, as an agricultural industry, we mistakenly thought, "What consumers don't know won't hurt them." But as animal rights groups continue to release undercover videos of things gone wrong, it has become clear the industry needed to do more to address those issues head on.

Recently the American Meat Institute, the group that represents meat processors and their suppliers, teamed up with Dr. Temple Grandin and released a video of their own. Called, "The Glass Wall Project," the video is designed to show true transparency in the process.

The video shows everything from unloading of the cattle, to the use of the captive bolt, to the animals traveling along the conveyor system. One of the most important points of the video, I believe, is when Grandin discusses the reflexive movements of the cattle after their brain has been destroyed. Movement such as those have been used by animal rights activists to say the animals were still alive.

As Janet Riley, senior vice president for AMI, says, "Yes, this video is graphic, but it is honest. We hope it will be received in that spirit and that viewers will receive this as the important step forward that this video represents: glass walls."

Nothing changes the important fact that these are food animals put on this earth for the purpose of providing nourishment to humans. It is their purpose in life. It's not something that we like to focus on, but it is a fact.

Knowing this, most humans treat those animals with the respect and care they deserve. I applaud the AMI for making the walls, and the process, of meat processing facilities transparent.

You may read Riley's comments about the video and view it at:

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at

Date: 9/3/2012


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