Swift Pork Co. is a subsidiary of meat-processing company JBS USA. | File photo
JBS/Swift Pork Co. is a subsidiary of meat-processing company JBS USA. | File photo

The Board of Zoning Adjustment on Monday approved plans allowing the pork processing company JBS/Swift Pork Co. to implement a new slaughtering system at its facilities at 1200 Story Ave. in Butchertown.

The new slaughtering process, which uses carbon dioxide, is already used at JBS USA‘s other operations, and the company states that it is more humane.

Glenn Price, the attorney representing JBS/Swift, corrected the Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services report on the new operation.

“They are not suffocated,” Price said. “It is not a more efficient killing operation.”

The carbon dioxide renders the hogs unconscious and unable to feel pain similar to an anesthetic, he said, and the process doesn’t impact the number of hogs that are killed.

Six to eight pigs travel on a mechanism called a gondola down 35 feet and are exposed to a high-level of carbon dioxide. After the hogs are unconscious, they are exsanguinated.

Lindsey Jones, who oversees animal welfare for JBS USA, said the process is more humane and limits the amount of stress the animal is under because employees don’t have to handle them as much, and they are allowed to travel in groups. Currently, the hogs travel in a line one-by-one and are stunned by electricity.

“Pigs are social animals. It allows them to move forward in a group,” she said, and the new process is more mechanical. “You remove human error to make sure the animals never return to sensibility.”

Attorney Jon Salomon, who represents the Butchertown Neighborhood Association, did not oppose allowing the company to implement the new slaughtering method.

“We don’t want to stand in the way of measures that would be more respectful to animals,” he said.

But he said the zoning board should take the opportunity to impose conditions of approval, including requiring JBS/Swift to plant trees in the neighborhood and have enclosed live animal trailers. Enclosing the trailers would help cut down on the odor, Salomon said.

Jones replied that trailers are required to have holes to allow air to move through. Without the holes, the inside of the trailers would heat up and could result in the premature and painful death of the hogs.

“The pigs have to have ventilation. They have to have air movement through there,” Jones said. “What it is very likely to do is to cause animals suffering.”

Nick Johnson, the newly elected president of Butchertown Neighborhood Association, said he’d simply like to see the company put forth more effort to be a good neighbor, noting the trash and cigarette butts that JBS/Swift employees leave littering the sidewalks and streets.

“We would just like them to take some action to demonstrate that there is this opportunity for a new relationship and they do care,” he said.

In the end, the Board of Zoning Adjustment unanimously agreed to permit the new operation but under several conditions include that JBS/Swift work with residents and other business owners to remedy the litter problem in front of its facilities.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]