Monday, February 18, 2008

Should USDA Reduce the Number of Inspectors? had a story last week that caught my eye. The USDA is testing a video analysis tool (registration required) that would replace human graders in slaughterhouses. Today, USDA inspectors visually observe a beef carcass and assign a grade, e.g. Prime or Choice. The logic is that a machine will be more objective than a human grader.

This might indeed be true. I personally think that the grading system is a bit too simplistic to truly differentiate quality and taste but it is a good start so consistency is welcome.

Especially in light of the recent Westland beef recall, I'm just not sure that the USDA should be reducing the number of inspectors in house. Perhaps they don't intend to remove the human inspectors but instead reassign them to monitor food or employee safety or animal welfare practices. I hope that they'll consider this opportunity.

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