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Killing 22 Hogs a Minute, Meatpackers Test Old Limits of Safety

Feb. 1, 2019, 12:58 PM

In an Illinois River town where Abe Lincoln once toiled as a country lawyer, the slaughterhouse of the future runs at a speed that generations of Midwestern farmers would have dismissed as fantasy.

Hogs raised on the farm of Gordon and Jeanine Lockie in Elma, Iowa.
Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

At other factories, as many as seven government inspectors are stationed along the slaughter line to look for signs of contamination or disease. Here, in Beardstown, Illinois, workers bear more of that responsibility.

Four federal inspectors officiate like chair umpires at a tennis match. They try to call out potential hazards as carcasses whiz by, before getting cut into chops and hams. Owned by Brazil-based JBS ...