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Sequestration cuts could put meat safety at risk
The meat industry in the state of Nebraska could take a huge hit as the sequester deadline approaches. According to Reuters, the USDA says the cuts would force the industry to lay off 8400 meat inspectors for 15 days.
It's going to hit one of our biggest local industries. The Nebraska Prime meat packing plant is just one of several meat packing plants across Central Nebraska where meat is inspected by federal inspectors. But if there are no inspectors to check the meat, what does that mean for these businesses?
The little label on your meat means a lot. It means someone has looked over and inspected your meat before it hits your plate.
"We're right in the heart of meat country. I don't know what people would do," said Steve's Butcher Shop owner Steve St. John.
Over 8,000 inspectors could be cut in order to control the savings that are being ordered for the Food Safety Agency.
"I shouldn't say this... but the people in Washington - they don't know what goes on out here. It's somebody sitting behind a desk thinking, well, here's one of the ways we can cut. Well it's not the way to do it. Because now you're forcing people to buy uninspected meat; that's not safe," said St. John.
Steve St. John owns Steve's Butcher Shop in Doniphan.
"We do roughly 330 to 350 beef a year that we process for people.
They also buy meat from a federal plant to sell," St. John said. "This is all of our federally inspected meat, this meat is all inspected in Grand Island at the Harvest Meat plant."
In fact, the Nebraska Cattlemen President, Dale Spencer, says, "Production would cease without inspection, thus limiting, if not ceasing, consumers access to nutritious foods."
Take a look behind the scenes.
"The federal inspector does come in and check out our procedure as far as cleanliness and how we process and everything," said St. John.
News 5 talked with several meat packing plants across the area, including JBS in Grand Island, feed lots and cattle owners. Most of them had the same answer. They aren't sure what the sequester will do.
"That inspector is a main, main person in the wheel here. Without him, it's stopped," said St. John.
Now if the sequester does happen, Steve says that he thinks that the state might take over the inspection at his shop, but isn't sure what would happen at the federal plants.
He says it wouldn't matter on his side which agency did the inspection as long as they are being done.
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