A Pig is a Pig Even if it Has Only Three Legs, is Laying Down or is Fatigued

March 3, 2009

By Riëtte van Laack

The Eastern District Court of California enjoined California from enforcing California's Penal Code Section 599f against federally inspected swine slaughterhouses on the ground that section 599f is expressly preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (“FMIA”). 

Section 599f prohibits a slaughterhouse from buying, selling or receiving nonambulatory animals for human consumption, and requires that any nonambulatory animal be euthanized immediately.  In contrast, the FMIA and its implementing regulations allow slaughterhouses to set aside disabled or fatigued animals (other than cattle) for inspection. 

The FMIA contains an express preemption clause specifically limiting the states in their ability to govern meat inspection and labeling requirements of any federally inspected establishment. 21 U.S.C. § 678.  The preemption clause does not limit states from regulating what types of meat may be sold for human consumption.

Section 599f would alter the federally mandated procedure for nonambulatory animals.  Because that section’s prohibition “differs from” and is “in addition” to FMIA requirements, the Court held that the section is expressly preempted by the FMIA.  California argued that Section 599f did not impose additional inspection requirements, but rather regulated the “type of meat” which may be sold for human consumption in California.  The Court summarily dismissed this argument because a “nonambulatory pig” is not “type of meat.”  Moreover, the Court found that the FMIA ensures the safety of meat and protects the health of the consumers, including California’s citizens.

Categories: Foods