Johnston beef slaughterhouse fined $20K, given probation for violating Federal Meat Inspection Act

Rhode Island Beef and Veal in Johnston is shown in 2019. (Google)

A Johnston slaughterhouse will pay a $20,000 fine and spend three years on federal probation for selling fraudulently labeled beef in 2019, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced Tuesday

U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy’s ruling had probation time twice as long as the 18 months that  the Rhode Island Beef and Veal’s lawyers argued would be appropriate for their client.

“The Court should impose a sentence that deters similar misconduct but does not threaten the existence of a struggling company with no prior criminal history,” argued Gary G. Pelletier, Beef and Veal’s attorney, wrote in an April 29 sentencing memorandum.

“In entering into the agreement with Rhode Island Beef and Veal, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recognized the value of the company as one of the only — if not the only beef processing plants in Southern New England — and sought to fashion a solution that will allow the company to survive and make a profit,” Pelletier wrote, and added that the company has operated at a loss since 2019. 

Rhode Island Beef and Veal caught the feds’ attention that same year during a visit from USDA inspectors. Two major events in the butchering process need to comply with USDA standards. First, is the slaughter itself. Second is the packaging process. 

“It was here that they ran afoul of the law,” Pelletier wrote of the packing process.

During the August 2019 inspection, a USDA official noted the presence of rodents at the butchering plant and issued a suspension. But Rhode Island Beef and Veal had an emergency beef order from Soeltl Farms in Salem, Connecticut. To fulfill that order, the Johnston slaughterhouse ignored the suspension, and slapped USDA inspection stamps onto the beef that had been approved but not stamped by the USDA.

“While the company certainly acknowledges the wrongfulness of its conduct, this is not a situation where the business’s misdeeds harmed anyone,” Pelletier wrote. “Nothing suggests that the company placed unsavory beef into commerce; rather, the company did not abide by the rules when it undertook actions to satisfy the needs of a longstanding customer in Connecticut.”

The falsely labeled Connecticut shipment was found during a subsequent USDA inspection a week later. A supervisor at Beef and Veal again found employees cutting meat and applying USDA stamps without the appropriate inspector present.

“The supervisor retained 10 beef carcasses and twenty pounds of falsely marked ground beef,” Pelletier recounted. “The company’s management destroyed the beef confiscated by the supervisor.”

Pelletier noted the company has not had any civil or criminal violations since 2019, and has worked with the USDA since then to ensure adherence with federal protocol. 

Micheal A. Quattrucci, one of the owners of Rhode Island Beef and Veal, admitted in federal court last year that the slaughterhouse had falsely applied inspection stickers to some slaughterhouse products.  

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