Defunct Slaughterhouse Owners Settle Claims Over Beef Recall

The owners of a defunct beef supplier to the National School Lunch Program agreed to settle allegations by the Justice Department stemming from the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

Hallmark Meat Packing Co. owners Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr. will pay $316,802, the Humane Society of the United States said today in a statement. They also agreed to entry of a $497 million final judgment against the Chino, California-based company, according to the statement.

The slaughterhouse has no assets won’t be able to pay the $497 million, which is to serve as deterrent, Jonathan Lovvorn, a Humane Society lawyer, said in a phone interview. The settlement will be filed next week in federal court in Riverside, California, Lovvorn said.

The Justice Department intervened in 2009 in the whistleblower lawsuit first brought by the Humane Society against Hallmark and Westland Meat Co. The companies had to recall 143 million pounds of beef the previous year after a video made by the Humane Society showed workers abusing animals unable to walk on their own.

Undercover Video

The undercover video, which showed plant workers using electric prods, high-powered water hoses and forklifts to force cattle that had collapsed to walk, raised questions about whether the “downer” animals that could be carriers of mad cow disease had been properly inspected before being slaughtered. Both companies went bankrupt after the recall, Lovvorn said.

Donald Sieveke, a lawyer for the Hallmarks, declined to comment on the settlement.

Bruce Riordan, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which worked on the case, didn’t immediately return a call to his office.

Westland Meat, which is a separate entity from Hallmark, isn’t part of the settlement and continues to defend the case, Mark Troy, a lawyer for the company said in a phone interview. He said the Hallmarks’ agreement to the judgment against their company has “absolutely” no effect on his clients.

The case is Humane Society v. Hallmark Meat Packing, 08-00221, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).