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School district pulls beef from menu

Newport-Mesa action comes after reports of inhumane activities at Southern California slaughterhouse that could result in bad meat.

February 01, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

The Newport-Mesa school district has suspended the service of all beef products indefinitely due to an act by the United States Department of Agriculture, according to school officials.

The stoppage is a result of an “administrative hold” on all beef products purchased under a contract with Westland Meat Company of Chino due to recent reports of inhumane activities at one of the company’s slaughterhouses, according to Richard Green, director of nutrition services for Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

“When we see the tip of the iceberg, we put all engines in full reverse,” said Green. “We don’t want folks to panic. We have things under control.”

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A video obtained by the Humane Society of the United States showed two employees using electric prods to get “downed” animals on their feet, dragging cows with chains to the killing room and using forklifts to roll animals who wouldn’t stand, according to a Washington Post story.

The concern is that some of those “downed” animals may be sick and shouldn’t be put into the supply chain, said Green.

Not all beef products for the school district come from Westland Meat Company, but it is unknown how much beef from the slaughterhouse in question made it through to Newport-Mesa schools, according to Green.

The manufacturer, in conjunction with the USDA, will track all products to pinpoint which schools received meat from Westland.

Newport-Mesa elementary schools didn’t have beef on the menu for the beginning of February, by mere chance, but the district nutrition services is now developing a new menu for the entire month which won’t contain beef as a cautionary action, according to Green.

“Safeguarding the health of kids is our primary mission,” Green said.

The Westland Meat Company posted a letter on its website acknowledging the video obtained by the Humane Society. The employees in the video have been fired and their supervisor suspended pending further investigation. The company has suspended all operations until they meet with all employees and investigate the incident further.

“We are shocked, saddened and sickened by what we have seen today,” wrote Steve Mendell, president and CEO of Westland in a letter posted on the company’s website.


DANIEL TEDFORD may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at daniel.tedford@latimes.com.

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