Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Trace Kershaw

Second Advisor

Robert Dubrow


Since 1998, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has allowed meat companies to increase slaughter line speeds in order to increase production of meat and poultry. The USDA grants approvals known as “line speed waivers” that bypass the requirements of current speed and inspection regulations. During the Covid-19 pandemic, slaughterhouses became epicenters of Covid-19 outbreaks, which called into question safety regulations established at these facilities. The USDA continued to grant line speed waivers despite evidence that faster line speeds result in increased worker injuries, animal welfare violations, environmental protection violations, food safety violations, and higher risk of Covid-19.

In an effort to combat health and safety risks, Congress introduced the Safe Line Speeds During Covid-19 Act in July 2020. The act places a moratorium on the USDA’s ability to grant line speed waivers. This document reviews the health impact of slaughter line speeds, and analyzes the potential outcomes and impact of the current policies and the newly submitted act. It explores how slaughter line speeds impact the short-term and long-term health and safety of slaughterhouse workers and the general public.

Slaughter line speeds are a seemingly minute policy that have major effects on the food system, slaughterhouse workers, environmental pollution, animal welfare, and population health. The Safe Line Speeds During Covid-19 Act holds the USDA and Department of Labor accountable for the safety of our food system, but only does so for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. For the continued safety and protection of animals, workers, the environment, and consumers, the bill must make these standards permanent beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. This critical bill will have important implications for public health and the future of food system policies.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access