When there’s a vaguely described incident at a meat processing plant that requires the swift disposal of 50,000 pounds of pork products, morbid individuals like me start wondering whether that means an employee lost a finger—or an entire arm. But in this case, Smithfield Farms was just forced to trash its meat because one of its workers took a piss while he was still on the production line. And before you ask, no, nothing happened to his penis (that we’re aware of).
According to a report from WAVY, the unidentified employee was working on the production line at the company’s plant in Smithfield, Virginia when he had to go, like, right that second. In a video that was sent to the station, the man can be seen pulling his gloves off and taking a leak right underneath the still-moving conveyor belt. He then calmly slips his hands into his gloves and goes back to work.
Smithfield confirmed the incident to the station, and said that it was an “isolated incident,” and that the employee in question has been suspended, pending an internal investigation. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is reportedly looking into the incident as well. (MUNCHIES has reached out to both Smithfield and the USDA for additional comment and is awaiting a response.)
“In accordance with Smithfield’s food safety and quality standards, more than 50,000 pounds of product were disposed of following a swift internal investigation that revealed an employee had urinated at his station during the production process," Smithfield Foods spokesperson Lisa Martin told WAVY. "The facility immediately halted production, fully cleaned the processing line, and sanitized all equipment multiple times before resuming operation.” (Just as a general rule, it’s probably best to refrain from workplace behaviors that require the cleaning and sterilization of...anything.)
The New Yorker reports that Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pig and pork producer, with $15 billion in annual sales. Its facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina is the largest pork processing plant in the world, euphemistically “processing” around 30,000 hogs every day.
The plant in Smithfield where the on-the-job urinator was caught on camera produces bacon, sausage, pork, and smoked meats. That location employs an estimated 2,500 people, although that number might drop to 2,499.
But this worker might have also been taking desperate measures under unsustainable work conditions. A 2016 report from Oxfam America found that some workers in poultry processing plants are forced to wear diapers while on the line because they’re forbidden from taking regular bathroom breaks. The Oxfam report surveyed 266 workers in Alabama, and 80 percent of respondents said they could not use the bathroom when needed; 86 percent said the same thing in a separate Minnesota survey.
"What would be shocking in most workplaces happens far too often in poultry plants: Workers relieving themselves while standing at their work station," the report says.
Additionally, about a third of workers in the meat and poultry industry are immigrants, and as a result, are less likely to report an illness or injury for fear of losing their jobs.
Even though Smithfield had to destroy the equivalent of ten Ford F-150s worth of meat, it could’ve been worse. Let’s be honest: it could’ve been so much worse.And to Smithfield Farms: We hope your employees are offered regular bathroom breaks.