At 6 am, I am walking the barns filled with sows and by 2 pm I am performing dispositions on carcasses that were suspected for not appearing normal. The line of work in a slaughter plant might raise a lot of controversies, but a veterinarian’s job in food safety is undeniably important.
I have just completed my fourth week with my scholarship with the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and I have learned so much in regards to keeping the food supply safe for human consumption. Not only do veterinarians perform ante-mortem inspection and look over each individual animal before they are sent to slaughter, but they also hold up many federal regulations in regards to the welfare of the animals. Humane handling of the animals is constantly being evaluated and watched and surprisingly, the regulations in regards to the welfare of the animals in the plant is stricter than many practices you will see in the field and in private practice.
In addition to the live animal work that veterinarians oversee, dispositions on carcasses that were ‘railed out’ are also made. Here, a determination is made on if the carcass is essential ‘food or not food.’ The scientific background we are taught in the line of veterinary work allows determinations to be made by looking at the whole picture and figure out what is going on and if it affects the carcass in ways that render it unfit for consumption.
Most people hear the word veterinarian and they think of puppies and kittens but next time you bite into a piece of chicken or are buying steaks at the grocery store, remember the work a veterinarian did to make sure your food is wholesome and healthy.