Spokesperson: Meatpacker drops local sale barn

By Sharna Johnson, Freedom New Mexico

A large Texas beefpacker won’t purchase cattle from Portales Livestock Auction until the auction makes changes in its animal handling procedures, according to the National Meat Association.

Caviness Meat Packers made the decision following allegations of cattle abuse made last week against the Portales auction by the Humane Society of the United States.

“(Caviness has) ceased purchasing from the Portales auction market and did not participate in their last sale and (has) no plans to participate until Portales can show that they’re meeting the same animal handling procedure that they (Caviness) meet in their own business,” said NMA Communications Director Jeremy Russell.

Portales auction owner Randy Bouldin declined to comment on Wednesday, but he said last week Caviness is his largest customer.

Bouldin also said last week he was concerned about incidents videotaped by HSUS and that he planned to implement more training for his employees.

Russell said video footage of alleged abuse at the Portales auction was upsetting and did not represent acceptable practices. He said it will be up to Portales Livestock Auction to prove it has corrected the problems before Caviness will consider doing business with the auction again.
Caviness Chief Executive Officer Terry Caviness did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

Caviness has operations in Amarillo and Hereford, Texas.

HSUS on June 25 went public with a video it said was filmed at Portales Livestock Auction, detailing instances of alleged abuse and improper handling of cattle.

The video, shot by an undercover investigator for the Humane Society, appears to show a cow being kicked and cows being dragged by a chain pulled by a tractor.

HSUS reported Caviness is among packers that purchase cattle from the Portales auction.

Caviness responded with a press release on its Web site:

“We take very seriously humane handling and food safety. We have rigorous protocols and employee training for all animal handling. We do not buy non-ambulatory animals and at no time do we process non-ambulatory animals. As a progressive beef packer and further processor, we focus on maintaining an environment for producing products that exceed the highest food safety standards,” the release said.

No one has alleged that non-ambulatory cattle were sold for slaughter by the Portales auction.

Russell said about 450 companies, including Caviness, hold membership with the NMA, which is a trade association among beef producers and others in the industry.