The National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association this week refuted claims of unsafe working conditions in poultry plants made in a recent white paper from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.
The law centers, which advocate for various causes and "at-risk" social groups, released the report earlier this month. They say that the high speeds of poultry processing lines are causing unsafe conditions, injuries and illnesses in workers.
"Nearly three out of four Alabama poultry workers interviewed for the report described suffering a significant work-related injury or illness, such as debilitating pain in their hands, gnarled fingers, cuts, chemical burns or respiratory problems," the SPLC said.
The report, SPLC says, is based on 300 interviews of current and former Alabama poultry workers. It highlights figures from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration and USDA regulations that dictate processing speeds and inspection.
In the report, the group says that injuries in the poultry industry are more frequent than for the private workforce as a whole, citing data that found injury rates of 5.9% in the poultry industry.
But, poultry groups say more accurate figures for the group's comparisons should be drawn from poultry workers vs. all manufacturing workers, not all workers, as cited in the paper. Manufacturing illness/injury rate is at 4.4%, while injury rates for all workers is at 3.5%.
NCC and US Poultry also point out the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported injury/illness rate for automobile manufacturing workers was 7.5%; for office furniture manufacturing, 5.2%; for passenger airline workers, 7.9%; and for state and local government workers, 5.7%.