WRAL Investigates

N.C. meat inspections reveal more than 300 violations

Posted December 7, 2009 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2013 9:04 a.m. EST

— A backyard slaughterhouse and fake USDA labels on meat packaging were just two of the cases uncovered in North Carolina this year during state-mandated meat inspections.

The North Carolina Meat & Poultry Inspection Division, part of the state's Department of Agriculture, reported more than 300 violations across the state since 2005, according to public records obtained by the WRAL Investigates Team.

Inspection photos taken at Ronnie and Barbara Sink's home in Lexington showed men slaughtering cattle in the couple's back yard.

Ronnie Sink said he sold the cattle to people from foreign countries who wanted to slaughter the animals for religious purposes. He allowed them to kill the animals in his back yard, but said he no longer allows them to use his property.

See inspection photos of meat violations. (Warning: Some pictures are graphic.)

State agriculture officials said that the Sinks' operation was unauthorized and unsanitary.

"It wasn't very pleasant," said Don Delozier, state director of the Meat & Poultry Inspection Division. "It wasn't anything we'd consider close to accepting."

Compliance officers shut down the operation and sent the Sinks a letter on Sept. 21 advising them of civil penalties. The Sinks agreed to pay a $4,000 fine to the state. If the slaughtering was for private use, it would've been OK, according to investigators. Since money changed hands, the state considered it a business.

"For you to slaughter that animal and sell to me or charge me a fee, that violates state law and that's where the problem was," Delozier said.

Another large case the state investigated was against Mexico Central Foods Inc. in Monroe in which the owner was cited for unlicensed beef and pork processing. Settlement papers also showed that the owner made fake U.S. Department of Agriculture labels for the packages. The state fined Mexico Central $10,000.

The Lexington and Monroe cases were among four businesses that were fined for serious violations this year. Fifty-one others received written warnings.

"The majority of our violators, they are violators because they are not aware of what the law is," Delozier said.

Fines are issued in the most egregious cases. Delozier said he thinks legal settlements get better results than criminal charges because settlements allow his officers unlimited access to the properties for two years.

"We can walk in Saturday morning or Friday night, any time. We have 24/7 access," he said.

For more information:

North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Meat and Poultry Inspection Division
Agriculture Building
1001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1001

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