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We spent months interviewing former and current employees of Seaboard Foods, one of the largest and most productive meat processing plants in the country. We also reviewed documents from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, lawsuits and dozens of Workers’ Compensation filings.

Here are the major takeaways from the investigation.

  • Employees with serious injuries said that they were only provided first aid and that doctors’ notes suggesting time off or reduced workload were ignored. Francisco Reyes, who worked at the plant until summer 2020, said while tossing pork shoulders up an inclining conveyor belt he heard a pop in his elbow. Scans showed his elbow had a contusion and a vertebrae was fractured. A doctor recommended restricting his movements at work, but the plant wouldn’t accommodate him, Reyes said. He worked through the pain.
  • Injuries increased at the plant after the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2019 eliminated limits on how fast hog plants could run their production lines. Seaboard Foods increased its production speeds, forcing employees to work faster.
  • Workers could be subjected to a drug test prior to receiving treatment for serious injuries. A current employee who requested anonymity to protect his job said this dissuaded him from going to the nurse: He can’t close his hands because they’re inflamed from using metal hooks and knives, and he smokes marijuana so the pain doesn’t keep him awake.

Seaboard Foods said safety is the company’s top priority. Read its full statement to us below.

Photo by Madison McVan, Investigate Midwest