The hazards of chicken off the bone

If you've ever boned a chicken (and who hasn't, right?) you know it isn't easy. It's hard on the hands and dangerous if you are doing it fast, with sharp knives. How fast? Say, a few thousand chicken breasts a day? Every day. Day after day. And doing it for chicken feed (metaphorically speaking), so you can't afford health insurance. But at least you get some medical care if you're hurt at work. From the company:

Mike Flowers is a powerful gatekeeper. He often decides whether to send poultry workers to a doctor when they get hurt on the job or complain of chronic pain.

"I think we do a pretty good job of taking care of these folks," said Flowers, who treats workers at the House of Raeford Farms plant in West Columbia, S.C.

Ernestina Ruiz thinks otherwise.

In 2006, after months of de-boning thousands of chicken breasts each day, her hands and wrists began to hurt. She complained to Flowers at least three times, she said, but each time he gave her pain relievers or a bandage and sent her back to work.

" `You're going to be fine,' " she recalled him saying.

A large lump grew on her left wrist. The pain got so bad, she said, she went to a private doctor and had surgery. (Charlotte Observer; hat tip Jordan Barab, Confined Space)

Mike Flowers isn't a doctor. He's an in house "medical attendant." Most don't have any medical training. They know some first aid. First aid is a good thing to know in a workplace where people routinely get lacerated with sharp knives, burned by chemicals, or, as in this case, suffer the consequences of repetitive strain injury. But too often, according to this in depth report for the Charlotte Observer and the testimony of many workers, the attendants don't facilitate healing but preventit.

The reasons aren't hard to find. Work related injuries are compensable. In addition, anything beyond a minor injury has to be recorded on federal logs, possibly drawing the attention of a state or federal inspector. In fact House of Raeford was charged by state inspectors in 1999 and 2000. Here's what happened:

When N.C. OSHA investigated injuries at one House of Raeford plant in 1999 and 2000, it concluded that company policies were inhibiting workers from seeking medical care.The inspectors were trying to determine why many workers at one of the company's plants in Raeford were suffering from injuries commonly caused by repetitive motion.

"We were concerned they weren't going to get the medical treatment, and their symptoms were going to be ignored and just made worse," J.D. Lewis, the state's lead inspector in the case, told the Observer.

In court documents, regulators said a first-aid attendant at the plant had "no special training for the position" and was not licensed as a health care provider or even certified in first aid. Yet the attendant was responsible for evaluating injured workers, treating them and deciding whether to send them to licensed medical providers, the state said.

The state dropped the case in late 2000 after Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks refused to let regulators interview hundreds of workers inside the plant. The judge said inspectors had no authority to investigate further because compliance deadlines for new ergonomics rules had not yet kicked in.

House of Raeford is a big company, with some 6000 employees in eight processing plants. It supplies restaurants, school systems and supermarkets, where its deli meats are sold under the brand name "Lakewood Plantations." But the House of Raeford isn't unusual. The next time you buy some boned turkey or chicken breast, remember it was boned by someone. And that person more than likely was injured putting it on your table.

Not injured all at once. Injured just a little. Thousands of times a day.

More like this

It sounds like malpractice to me. That’s what I’ve been thinking ever since learning how poultry workers are treated (and not treated) for work-related injuries. The latest example comes from Pilgrim’s Pride, the largest US poultry processing company. Last week OSHA issued the first-ever citation…
For 17 years, Salvadora Roman deboned chickens on the processing line at Wayne Farms in Decatur, Alabama. In particular, she deboned the left side of the chicken — a task she was expected to perform on three chickens each minute during her eight-hour shift. Because of the repetitive movement and…
The billion-dollar poultry industry chews up its workers and spits them out like a chaw of tobacco. One of those workers is in Washington, DC this week to make a plea to the Obama Administration. For 17 years, Salvadora Roman, 59 worked on the de-boning line at a Wayne Farms poultry processing…
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack seems determined to implement a new poultry slaughter inspection system, despite strong calls from the food safety and public health communities for him to withdraw it.   At an April 17 congressional hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture,…

We of the middle class sometimes bemoan how poorly the rich use us, but we of the middle class live well on the backs of the poor. If we would decide that every person who provides us with food or other goods, whether here or in the US, should get a living wage and decent health care, we would not be able to afford our lifestyles. I acknowledge (with guilt) that I am part of this system of immorality which hurts other humans more than gay marriage hurts anyone, but where is the call from the churches to even out lifestyles. Why should someone who chops up your chicken get paid so poorly and treated so ill? In part because we demand cheap food rather than moral food.

All you Christians on the list who think God ordained capitalism, go back and read ACTS and find out how the early Christians, fresh from the teachings of their Lord, went into a communal lifestyle - and those who lied about sharing all got zapped dead by God.

But in the meantime, wouldn't it be smart to treat the illegal aliens who are part of this chicken slaughter system. Does anyone really want someone with TB coughing on their chicken. Public Health was introduced for a VERY good reason. It protects everyone, including the rich. They just don't know it.

I liked it about the helmets Revere... Good post, but a bit misleading. Truth is that if you shoot someone at moderately close range with any high powered round that one of two things will happen. It will penetrate unless the weave is very, very tight.

On the other hand if its too tight, the round dependent on where it hits will snap your spine in half like a guillotine. Breaks your neck in a very efficient manner.

Sniper rounds (.40 up to .60) caliber will leave your helmet on but tear your head clean off. Bullet is too big to penetrate most weaves of any kind.

Just a little useful information. They were dinged on the suggestion that the weaving was not tight enough. You get shot with a helmet on and a chin strap you are going to the hospital anyway you look at it. It might just leave you as a quad, or internally decapitated. There was no finding of wrong doing so its perfectly legal for them to bid and receive contracts. You get caught in todays DoD environment and you are barred for years, or life from bidding.

As for Raeford? Ask for a green card... there's your answer to that. Tyson employs thousands of illegals... ask what the cost would be to actually employ a US citizen. Too high is what it is. Its like the amnesty bill. A bill to turn them into citizens. It wont change a thing. They'll just get the right to be fired because they will suddenly make too much money and then be replaced by yet another illegal who will work for boxes less money. Endless cycle. And please do remember who was a HUGE supporter of the Clintons that saw the start of the invasion. If you build it, they will come.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 14 Feb 2008 #permalink

Buy locally produced poultry (pork, beef, etc.) and there's a pretty good chance that it was 1) raised humanely and without antibiotics/growth factors and 2) processed by a local abattoir (relatively low volume production, often family owned). Chances are, no matter where you are, there are local producers. Patronize them.

By Michael Clark (not verified) on 14 Feb 2008 #permalink

Michael, yes that is the way to go. So much can be said for encouraging local economy. Barbara Kingsolver (along with her husband and 18 year old daughter) has written a good book about it - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Besides all the positive reason she lists, oil is peaking and we will have less and less fuel for sending food all around the world before long. So encouraging local food producers now could make the changeover smoother. Meanwhile, eat Pineapple while you can.

K, I'm an evangelical Christian, but I'm not an idiot--just like most others. Christianity has nothing to do with this thread of how a poultry processing plant handles its employees. I'll tell you right now--if I had been there, I would have sent that lady for treatment.
This is a great forum. Don't abuse the privilege with your own private Christian-bashing agenda. If it's that important to you, just remember to include such "evil" Christians as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, and the thousands of Christians in Europe who died in the Holocaust because they were caught hiding Jewish people.

Revere, I apologize for the sidetrack. AnnieRN

Hi Annie: Since you mentioned the Christians died in Holocust, I am afrid that you missed the post on Feb 12's freethinker S. So, I use this thread to share with you.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), the German Evangelical pastor and theologian who was imprisoned and hanged for his opposition to the Nazis, is being remembered around the world on Feb. 4, the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Bonhoeffer openly challenged the church to stand with the Jews, and eventually joined in a family plot to kill Adolf Hitler. His books are now considered classics in the study of religion, philosophy and ethics.
"The service of the church," Bonhoeffer once said, "has to be given to those who suffer violence and injustice."

About K. I felt a little bit guilty, because I had kept posting theology to her/him; I thought that perhaps could be helpful. When she/he posted that "Bible is evil", I thought that my good will has bankrupted completely.

Anyway, everything has its time. And God has plan for everyone. Sweet suffering!

In fact, I have been grateful for Lewis, the origin information of United Church was from him.

Peace and love.

Thank you, Paiwan. :) AnnieRN