Performance Evaluation and Research Division
Building 1, Room W314
State Capitol Complex
(304) 347-4890

Mission of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program

West Virginia's Meat and Poultry Inspection Program located within the Department of Agriculture is responsible for the continuous inspection of approximately 30 commercial slaughterhouses and/or processing plants throughout the state. All meat and poultry products manufactured in West Virginia for commercial sale, that are not inspected by the Federal Meat Inspection program fall under the jurisdiction of the West Virginia Meat and Poultry Inspection Program. This includes inspection of the facilities where meat or poultry is processed, equipment used, employee health, sanitation, water supply, sewage system, and rodent control. In a slaughterhouse plant, not only are the facilities inspected, but also the animals undergo an antemortem (before death) and postmortem (after death) inspection.

The program employs 23 field staff comprised of 18 meat inspectors, 2 compliance officers, 2 veterinarians (who also serve as the meat inspector supervisors) and 1 assistant director who is also a food technologist. The program also employs 3 individuals at the Guthrie Center, located in the Sissonville, WV area, which includes the Director of the inspection program, a secretary, and an accounting technician. In FY 96 the 23 field employees conducted 3,964 documented inspections in commercial plants; 14,298 animals for slaughter were inspected; 22 million pounds of processed meat and poultry products were inspected; and 1,777 tests on meat and poultry samples were conducted.

The program is also responsible for the licensing of these commercial establishments. Licensing fees are set up by average number of animals slaughtered per year or by average number of finished product poundage processed per year. Tables 1 and 2 below shows the number of slaughter and meat and poultry licenses that have been issued for FY 97.

Table 1
Number of Commercial
Meat Slaughter Licenses

ClassAvg. Slaughtered Per YearNo. of LicensesAnnual Fee
Small1 - 50012$10.00
Medium501 - 1,0006$25.00
Large1,001 - 5,0003$50.00
Extra LargeOver 5,0000$75.00

Table 2
Number of Commercial
Meat and Poultry Processor Licenses

ClassAvg. Poundage Processed Per YearNo. of LicensesAnnual Fee
Small1 - 25,00014$10.00
Medium25,001 - 250,0009$25.00
Large250,001 - 1,000,0004$50.00
Extra LargeOver 1,000,0002$75.00

Cooperation with the U.S.D.A.

The state Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is a cooperative program with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program is a 50/50 funded program, with the state's contribution being $542,000 for fiscal year 1997. West Virginia is one of 26 states that have state inspected cooperative programs, and the state meat inspection program falls under federal guidelines for meat and poultry inspection. Hawaii and Maryland are two states that the federal government recently took over. According to federal officials, the option of a state program is up to the individual states. The director of the state meat program states that the advantage to having a state meat inspection program is that the state inspectors can be more responsive than Federal officials. For example, if there are lesions on a carcass of an animal, usually the state inspected program can have one of the veterinarians on staff on site within the day, whereas the federal program would take much longer. Also, as a division of the Department of Agriculture, the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is charged with the promotion of agricultural businesses in West Virginia. The Department of Agriculture wants and allows businesses in West Virginia to prosper and spread their wings, whereas the Federal program is not as concerned - because of its size - about individual business in West Virginia. Also, if a processor or slaughter facility needed to change its hours of operation, the state program would promote and assist the individual business owner in providing meat inspection during those hours.
The Federal Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also does routine comprehensive reviews of the state meat and poultry inspection program. The most recent review by the U.S.D.A. was in 1992 and the program received a Category 1 rating meaning "Acceptable", which is the highest rating possible out of four category ratings. A letter from the Deputy Administrator of USDA Inspection Operations congratulated the Commissioner of Agriculture on "a very successful inspection system."

The program also recently underwent a comprehensive federal review, and a member of the review team stated that the category 1 rating would most likely stay in place, since she found no deficiencies in the state program.

Issue Area 1: The Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is Providing for the Safety of Consumers of West Virginia Meat and Poultry Products.

Inspection Process

Meat and Poultry inspectors engage in daily inspection on each day that a plant is in operation. The inspection begins before a plant starts operations, and everything in the plant is to be inspected. Plants are also required to be cleaned after operations end, and the inspector also checks to make sure the plant wasn't cleaned immediately before his arrival. Any equipment that the inspector feels does not meet his approval can be given a yellow rejection tags which can only be taken off by the inspector. That equipment cannot be used until the yellow tagged equipment has been cleaned and meets the inspectors approval. Inspectors are always present during slaughter of animals. Animals are inspected antemortem (before death), and postmortem (after death). Antemortem inspection includes inspecting the animal by sight while the animal is in motion. This allows the inspector to visually detect whether the animal shows any signs of illness. After slaughter, the head of the animal is removed from the carcass, and the inspector makes a routine inspection for lesions, and any abnormalities. Also, the carcass' liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, spleen, and lymphatic system are inspected. The carcass is then stamped for approval if it passes inspection. If the carcass is not passed for human consumption, it is denatured with blue dye or charcoal in the inspector's presence. In processing plants, among other things, inspectors are checking for cleanliness of equipment used, temperature of refrigeration units, and temperature during cooking if applicable.

The West Virginia Meat and Poultry Inspection Program's management information system, the Performance Based Inspection System (PBIS) was adopted on July 1, 1996. PBIS is a computer based inspection system that uses software provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. This system provides three important functions for inspectors and inspection officials:

1. Risk management: Determines the degree of risk and type of process and other factors to help determine the degree of oversight necessary to meet safety standards.

2. Automated support systems: Provides the director of the meat and poultry inspection program with computer generated reports that can help determine the extent of how well plants and inspectors are controlling operations and sanitation.
3. Scheduling of tasks: Automatically targets inspection tasks for each inspector which allows the director to establish oversight and target priorities on the most vital of tasks which can be critical to the safety of meat and poultry consumers. This computerized scheduling of tasks also allows the director better management of time and employees. The schedule also allows for unscheduled tasks to be performed at the discretion of the individual inspector.

According to documentation provided from the director of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program, the system works by providing inspectors with an assignment schedule that describes the tasks to be performed at a particular plant and estimated time needed for each task. Forms are filled out for each day's tasks and inspection results are placed on each form. PBIS provides strong data support for monitoring meat inspection, identifying tasks for inspections, and alerting the Director of areas of concern. The forms are mailed by each inspector to the main office at the Guthrie Center where the data is entered. The computer software generates inspection tasks for each plant for the next week. From this data, reports for the director can be generated to assist him in determining the status of meat inspection throughout the state.

The inspector written assignment schedule forms with inspection results are then filed by plant in a filing cabinet. These forms, as shown in Appendix A, allow an inspection result of acceptable, minor, major, critical or non-performance. Any deficiencies recorded by the inspector are reflected on a Process Deficiency Record (PDR) also shown in Appendix A. Within this Performance Deficiency Record are three classifications:

Each classification is then scored as certain, likely, or potential risks. Space for the plant management official's reply is then given along with preventive measures taken. These Performance Deficiency Records are then kept in a file by plant for further review if necessary. The PBIS can generate 39 reports, 16 of which are feedback reports for inspection results. (See Appendix B)

The Performance Based Inspection System assists in alerting the Director of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program to early detection to any trends before they become a potential problem. The report in Appendix C shows an example of a quarterly report for plant inspection and type of conditions. If a report indicates that a certain plant is being regularly cited, the director can take action before it becomes a critical problem threatening the health and safety of consumers. In essence, PBIS is a valuable early detection system. This system also shows that inspectors are doing their job, because plants are cited for violations, and the director is aware of deficiencies in the plants.

Each plant also undergoes an annual comprehensive review involving three inspectors. This team includes the Assistant Director of the meat program, one of the veterinary supervisors, and another inspector. This review provides the director and supervisors with information on each plant in order to correct any citations. Table 3 below is a summary of FY 1997 establishment reviews. There are 11 categories under review, each with separate subcategories. As the table shows, in FY 1997 the reviews found the meat and poultry facilities were in compliance 1,640 times. The establishments were cited 187 times for minimum variances, and only 2 times for maximum variances.

Table 3
1997 Establishment Review and Assessment Summary

ComplianceMinimum VarianceMaximum VarianceN/A
Facilities and Equipment512119096
Employee Training20054
Pest & Rodent Control44920
Receiving & Storage (Incoming)155309
Product Preparation427240108
Condemned/Inedible Product Control866022
Marks of Inspection98605
Finished Product Analysis700037
Storage & Shipping834017
Quality Control Program00027

In addition, meat inspectors take samples of meat products which are analyzed in the Department of Agriculture's laboratory, the South Charleston Hygienic Laboratory, the University of Kentucky Pathology laboratory, or the U.S.D.A. lab in Athens, Georgia. In the past seven years, the state Meat and Poultry Inspection Program has had no recall of state inspected meat products. Once in the past ten years a product was found to have an increased amount of nitrate, which was slightly above the standard limit.

Also, West Virginia Bureau of Public Health officials state that there have been no reported meat food poisoning deaths in the past three years nor illnesses as a result of the consumption of meat products. While this evidence may not show the total effectiveness of the meat inspections program, it does support the conclusion of an effective meat inspection program. This information along with the continuous inspection process, and monitoring of data through the PBIS database shows that the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is providing for the safety of West Virginia consumers of state inspected meat and poultry products.


The Legislative Auditor finds that the state cooperative Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is providing the citizens of West Virginia with the proper inspection of meat products. Inspectors are always on site during the slaughter of animals, and inspect these animals before and after death. Also, inspectors engage in daily inspections on each day that a plant is in operation. The Performance Based Inspection System provides inspectors and management with a valuable tool and process in inspecting meat and poultry slaughterhouse and processing facilities. It also assists the director in early detection of trends in a plant or an inspector before a problem occurs. This compilation of data and the process of inspection, along with data from the WV Bureau of Health, and results of the Federal Food Safety Inspection Service as mentioned in the Mission Statement are evidence that the consumption of meat products by WV producers is safe due in part to the work of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program.

Recommendation #1

The Legislature should continue and reestablish the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program within the Department of Agriculture.